Heartless Thieves Steal Torah Scrolls From Bronx Synagogue

My Childhood Shul Was Already Struggling as Jews Move

Shul Days: Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway was once a thriving, crowded synagogue. Its congregation has dwindled — and now thieves have snatched its prized Torah scrolls.
Shul Days: Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway was once a thriving, crowded synagogue. Its congregation has dwindled — and now thieves have snatched its prized Torah scrolls.

By Rukhl Schaechter

Published February 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A Bronx synagogue suffered a terrible blow this week: the theft of three sifrey-Torah, or Torah scrolls, each one worth $45,000.

The theft at the Orthodox shul, Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway, on East 208th Street in the Norwood Heights section, was discovered by a worker last Sunday. Besides the Torah scrolls, the thief also took the ornamental silver crowns, a breastplate and the yad, or pointer.

The news was personally distressing to me, as this was the synagogue that may family attended as I was growing up, and the rabbi, Zevulun Charlop, officiated at my wedding.

In addition to running a pulpit, Rabbi Charlop also served for many years as the dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University, and was once president of the National Council of Young Israel.

During a conversation with him this Wednesday, he was clearly upset. But at 83, still exhibited the same energy and determination I remembered from his passionate sermons about “Eretz Yisrael ha-shlema”, the right of the Jewish people to the whole land of Israel.

Rabbi Charlop said that as soon as he discovered the theft, he consulted the building’s insurance policy which mentions that “fine art” is covered for $60,000. “I imagine that includes sifrey-Torah,” he remarked hopefully.

The scrolls are also registered with the Universal Torah Registry, which marks parchment scrolls with perforations invisible to the eye but which can be read with equipment used in crime labs.

“We place a kosher serial number on every sefer-Torah, like the VIM number of a car, and if it’s stolen, we work closely with the police to recover it,” said David Pollock, the executive director of the Universal Torah Registry. If the thief tries to sell the sefer-Torah, the pattern can be traced back to the ID number which is linked to the owner in a database.

“It makes it much harder to sell,” Pollock added.


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.