By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Landfield Avenue Synagogue’s Torah is worth around $35,000 but is “priceless” to the congregation, said Rabbi Ben-Zion Chanowitz.
Yet last weekend, someone stole it from the Monticello synagogue.
“I can’t understand a human being who would do this,” the rabbi related on Wednesday. “Why would anyone steal it?”
Monticello Police Chief Doug Solomon said his investigators are working on answering that question.
“It is very hard to sell a Torah,” he acknowledged. “You’re dealing with a very narrow market.”
A synagogue’s Torah is one of its holiest objects, and this particular onecontaining the first five books of the Biblewas handwritten by a scribe about a decade ago.
Solomon wondered if it might not be an “inside job.” He noted that computers and other more easily fenced items were bypassed during the burglary.
“It looks to us like the thief was definitely looking for the Torah,” he said. “Why, is not clear yet.”
Chanowitz said two other arks (which hold Torahs) were opened, though they were already empty.
“The damage done to the building included busting down three doors from inside the building and breaking a large window in order to enter,” he stated. “They stole some petty cash, an art charity box, two silver pointers, and of course the Torah!”
The State Police are assisting in the investigation, which Solomon preliminarily indicated appears promising. Tips are welcomed at 794-4422.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Chanowitz is planning to hold a Rally of Support this Sunday at 3 p.m. at the synagogue.
“This rally is an expression of the community’s outrage that people’s property is broken into and their possessions stolen,” reads the poster announcing the event. “How much more so when this pertains to the synagogue, which is the Almighty’s property! We cannot witness this terrible event happen without issuing a public protest.”
The synagogue is also collecting donations to beef up its security. Those interested in helping can contact the synagogue or head to www.jewishcatskills.org.