Blame The Economy? $35,000 Torah Stolen From Upstate Synagogue

Landfield Avenue Rabbi: Black Market The Likely Selling Place For Swiped Sefer

MONTICELLO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The scene of crime was Monticello’s Landfield Avenue Synagogue, where Saturday morning, the rabbi discovered something important was missing.

“And I just could not believe what I saw. The torah was gone,” Rabbi Ben-Zion Chanowitz told CBS 2’s John Slattery on Wednesday.

Rabbi Chanowitz has a photo of the stolen torah, which his congregation acquired from Israel about 10 years ago and used in daily services.

“Somebody just violated our synagogue,” the rabbi said.

The stolen Sefer torah, a handwritten copy of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, is said to be valued at $35,000.

The thief entered by shattering a rear window. Once inside, he went throughout the synagogue.

The doors to three offices were forced open. Security was turned off for the Sabbath so there were no cameras. As much as $200 in cash was taken. Several other torahs, including the ones used in the main sanctuary, were safely locked up in a safe, but the one that was not, was taken.

The rabbi said he believes the motive was to sell it.

“What they may end up doing is putting it on the black market, and why would they want a torah?” Rabbi Chanowitz said.

Stolen torah

Sefer torah (Photo courtesy: Landfield Avenue Synagogue)

While no extraneous markings are allowed to identify torahs, a rabbinical ruling in the 1980s allowed for registered, coded, needle perforations to identify ownership.

Rabbi Chanowitz said the missing torah was, indeed, registered.

The rabbi says, in the past, he’s helped out several ex-cons, even employing a few; something police are now looking into.

Handwritten torah scrolls, which take about a year to copy, are typically valued at $20,000 and up.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • RoyAllen

    In this day and age,and environment,it still amazes me that,houses of worship,are without alarms,and security cameras to stop these thiefs,bigots,and vandals!

  • Florence

    The theif will have his JUST reward; if not in this life then the other. I really do hope the theif is found. Anyone who breaks into any house of worship has had his mind seared!!

  • Vernon Hell

    It will be bought by an Ayatollah who has given up on Islam.

  • joey fom B'hurst

    I guess it was not insured for water damage; so have it stolen.

    • Joe

      You have a poor sense of humor

  • ed

    Clearly, the thief had no idea that the item has a limited market and
    those who would be interested are smart enough to check the origin for
    many reasons.

    Not sure whether to be angry or have pity for anyone that would break into a House of Worship and steal a Torah. This person surely has attracted the attention of someone far more powerful than the Police.

  • sharon

    whos going to buy the torah from the robber? what kind of jewish oraganazation that has use for a torah is going to buy a stolen one? thats kind of against the main beliefs of judaism.

  • Esmerelda

    Keep security on.

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