TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Religious artifacts were stolen from a synagogue on Long Island, and officials believe they may have been thrown in the ocean.
As CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reports, the items were not only extremely costly, but meaningful to the community.READ MORE: Public Memorial For Gabby Petito Held On Long Island
Despite the dreary weather, lifeguards who normally keep an eye out for swimmers were looking for the stolen artifacts Monday at Lido Beach. They searched along the shoreline both on foot and in vehicles.
“These are something that are very, very sentimental to every single Jew,” Chabad of the Beaches Rabbi Eli Goodman told DeAngelis.
Rabbi Goodman said he went to Chabad of the beaches Saturday night, on the eve of the storm and ahead of a major Jewish holiday, to find it was ransacked.
“To my shock, I saw that the arch was broken into, Torahs on the ground, one of the doors was totally taken off the hinges and smashed,” he said.
The synagogue on Walnut Street in Long Beach has been under renovation for two years — a process slowed by the pandemic and now impacted by someone’s actions.
Rabbi Goodman said sacred religious items were stolen, including two Torahs, which take more than a year to write by hand.
“It’s not just a matter of replacing and purchasing another Torah, even though it’s very valuable. It can cost $60-$70-$80,000,” he said. “It can be quite expensive to replace, but I think the sentimental aspect of families is that the synagogue has used these Torahs for so many important occasions.”READ MORE: New Video Shows Suspects Wanted For East Harlem Slashing
“When the initial burglary was reported, the individual of interest was first discovered in the beach wearing a sacred shul. That is why we have the sense that maybe other items have been down there,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin.
Sunday, police announced the arrest of Hunter “Alexander” McElrath, 23, of Staten Island.
McElrath faces charges of burglary, criminal mischief and grand larceny.
Long Beach Police say McElrath had been arrested earlier in the day for disorderly conduct at Ocean Beach Park.
Hempstead town officials say silver crowns from Torahs were discovered on the beach, and they believe more artifacts could wash up.
“It could have been discarded anywhere, so we’re asking resident to please keep their eyes open,” Councilman Bruce Blakeman said.
“These are sacred items. You cannot put a value on a person’s faith, and if we can even recover one, we’ve done a great job,” Clavin added.
The town supervisor said the parks department will notify people who visit the beaches in the coming days to look out for the missing items, and hopefully someone finds them.MORE NEWS: 20th Annual Tunnel To Towers 5K Run And Walk Kicks Off From Brooklyn To Manhattan
Police said several of the religious items were recovered, but two Torahs remain missing.