Shopping Cart by the Forward

New York garbage men help Williamsburg Jews go on an hours long tefillin hunt

Image by Anya Ulinich

A group of Brooklyn Jews went on an extended dumpster dive Monday night in a hunt for a sacred object: a pair of tefillin that had been accidentally discarded.

The leather straps and boxes that Orthodox Jewish men wear to prayer, which contain holy scriptures, were noticed missing on Thursday according to NBC New York. A pair of tefillin can easily cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars; they can also have significant sentimental meaning. Traditionally, Jewish law dictates that sacred objects like tefillin, are buried rather than discarded when they can no longer be used.

Upon realizing the tefillin had been discarded, their owner, whose name has not been released, contacted Williamsburg’s United Jewish Organizations (UJO,) a charity group that offers a variety of services to the local Jewish community, asking for help.

The UJO liaised with the city’s Sanitation Department to see if the garbage haul suspected to contain the tefillin could be tracked down. The department told them the truck that had most recently picked up trash from their neighborhood was being held at the Varick Avenue transfer station.

With the help of New York City’s Sanitation Department, which supplied gloves, boots and suits, the tefillin’s owner and volunteers from the UJO dived into the refuse and didn’t leave until they were successful. They managed to locate the man’s tefillin in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The Sanitation Department also tweeted their relief at the discovery.


David Ian Klein

David Ian Klein

David Ian Klein covers breaking news and international Jewish communities for the Forward. You can reach him at and on Twitter @davidianklein .

NYC garbage men help on an hours long tefillin hunt

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

New York garbage men help Williamsburg Jews go on an hours long tefillin hunt

Thank you!

This article has been sent!