Phony 'Jewish Indiana Jones' Rabbi Goes to Jail

Fake Torah-Hunting Rabbi Starts Federal Sentence

By Forward Staff

Published January 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A Baltimore rabbi dubbed the ‘Jewish Indiana Jones’ for his supposed efforts hunting down torahs lost in the Holocaust, has begun a four-year federal prison sentence for fraud.

Menachem Youlus
Menachem Youlus

Menachem Youlus began serving a 51-month prison sentence last month at the federal correctional institution (FCI) in Otisville, N.Y., the Baltimore Jewish Times reported. Convicted of two counts of fraud in a Manhattan federal court on Oct. 11, Youlus is set to be behind bars until 2016, although he could be freed earlier.

Youlus co-founded Save a Torah, Inc. in 2004, a charity that raised money to rescue and acquire torahs that had been lost in the Holocaust.

The media-friendly cleric won the moniker the “Jewish Indiana Jones” for his supposedly daring overseas trips.

But the entire operation was a fraud, federal prosecutors proved, and Youlus only left the U.S. for brief personal tripst to Canada and Israel. He took $144,000 from the charity, even though he boasted of doing the operation as a mitzvah.

“During the time period of the fraud, Youlus bought 24 used Torahs from those two used Torah dealers for prices ranging from $3,250 to $9,500, with an average cost of $5,830 per Torah. Based on bank records and Save a Torah records, it is clear that Youlus received from $7,000 to $32,714 from the charity for each Torah he provided, with most payments in the range of $10,000 to $20,000,” according to a sentencing memorandum, the paper reported.

One of those whose complaints led to the case against Youlus was Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, and the general counsel of the World Jewish Congress.

Rosensaft, whose parents survived Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz, called authorities after smelling a rat about one of Youlus’ tales aboyt finding a Torah scroll under floor boards at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Rosensaft knew that Allied troops burnt the barracks to the ground when they liberated the death camp in 1945.

“At that point it became clear to me that Menachem Youlus was a liar. He was not an exaggerator, but an out-and-out categorical liar,” Rosensaft told the Baltimore Jewish Times.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.