October 31st, 2010
01:09 AM ET

Stolen Torah returned to Arizona synagogue after Craigslist ad

From CNN's Dan Gilgoff:

A Torah that was stolen from an Arizona synagogue on Monday has been returned after a Craigslist ad offered a $500 reward for the scrolls, the synagogue's rabbi said Saturday.

"The hardest thing to figure out is what this person was expecting to do with it," said Rabbi Reuven Mann, who leads the synagogue in Phoenix. "There is a market for people that buy and sell Torahs, but it has do be done legitimately."

A member of Mann's congregation, Young Israel of Phoenix, posted the Craigslist ad Tuesday, a day after the Torah - which the rabbi says is valued around $35,000 - was discovered missing in an apparent theft.

"I thought that the person who took it didn't know what they were doing," said Sam Saks, who placed the ad, noting that a prayer shawl and tefillin - boxes containing scripture that some Jewish men wear during prayer - were also missing.

"The Torah itself was a big enough heist," Saks said. "If you've already stolen a Lexus, why would you take an ashtray?"

"Reward - Torah scroll, Hebrew - $500" his ad said, "...no questions asked."

The ad included pictures of Torahs - which contain the first five books of the Bible inscribed by hand - in case someone had found the congregation's scroll but didn't know what it was.

Saks said he received an e-mail response later Tuesday, from a woman who claimed to have found the Torah in a Phoenix trash can.

When the woman did not immediately agree to return the Torah, Saks e-mailed her a message from Mann and the congregation's president explaining its significance and asking to get it back in time for Friday night services.

"The trick was to let the person know we were not interested in legal action and that we just wanted to the Torah back," said Saks, who is an attorney.

Saks asked her to meet him at the synagogue on Friday afternoon. She showed up Friday morning instead, dropping off a garbage bag containing the Torah, in the same condition as before, the prayer shawl and the tefillin.

The congregation's president, Farley Weiss, said that he has asked Phoenix police not to press charges. "The explanation that this woman gave us is that she had nothing to do with the crime," Weiss told CNN.

The Phoenix Police Department did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday night.

Saks declined to share the woman's e-mail address, saying he promised to maintain her anonymity.

She has not yet claimed the reward.

"We may not share the same religion," Saks said the woman, who described herself as a Christian, wrote to him in an e-mail Saturday night. "I believe there is a higher power and believe that there is a right and wrong."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • Torah • United States

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Gloria Lee

    Buying and selling on Cragislist can be tough for good honest people. The problem is that there's no way to know who is on the other end of the transaction or email address. I tripped across a cool tool that lets people that sell on online classifieds sites register their listings and then ask for reviews from their buyers. The sellers are then able to refer future potential buyers to their reputation and reviews left by past buyers. It's worth a try http://www.faceified.com

    December 13, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Why would some one steal an ancient Torah and then dispose of it in the Rubbish bin when it could bring a lot of money selling it some where else in the country or out?
    Well then who stole it wanted few pages only to collect or destroy and I wonder what it could be that needed to be crossed out from one of the oldest Holy Books available? What a Mystery?
    Watch this one:

    November 1, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  3. Ty

    Wow, that is wonderful news! It doesn't matter if the words of G-d is not in your language, it is a holy book and should be treated with respect. Regardless of how it happened, it is fantastic that the Torah was returned!

    November 1, 2010 at 8:25 am |
  4. Iqbal khan


    October 31, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  5. ybs

    sheep are always sheep!


    October 31, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  6. pourquoi pas

    First, about Facebook, there was the movie "The Social Network."

    Now, about Craigslist, comes "Torah, Torah, Torah," a movie that will never bomb.

    October 31, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.