Lost and found: Re­form shul re­cov­ers stolen scrolls


THERE WAS de­light among wor­ship­pers at the Shir Hayim Re­form con­gre­ga­tion in Hamp­stead on Shab­bat morn­ing as two stolen sifrei Torah were re­stored to their right­ful set­ting after be­ing found by a mem­ber of the pub­lic last Thurs­day.

They were taken in a bur­glary at the Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb home of rab­bis Jackie and Larry Tabick on March 22, their lodger com­ing face to face with a masked in­truder, who fled with items in­clud­ing a metal safe con­tain­ing the scrolls. The cou­ple feared the rob­ber would dis­pose of the scrolls be­cause at­tempt­ing to sell them would arouse sus­pi­cion.

But last Thurs­day evening Rabbi Larry Tabick tweeted an im­age of him­self and the re­cov­ered sifrei Torah with the mes­sage: “Our scrolls are back! Blessed is the One who is good and does good!”

He is the min­is­ter at Shir Hayim, where on Shab­bat, “we read from our lit­tlest scroll, which seems to be in per­fectly good con­di­tion”. With the Pe­sach rush, there had not been the op­por­tu­nity for a scribe to ex­am­ine the other se­fer Torah, in which the last sec­tion of De­varim [the fi­nal book in the scroll] was “a bit crum­pled”.

The day be­fore the sifrei Torah were found, an ap­peal for in­for­ma­tion had been is­sued by the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice, de­scrib­ing the scrolls as hav­ing “in­cal­cu­la­ble spir­i­tual value”. It quoted the rab­bis say­ing that Shir Hayim was “in mourn­ing” and that “a com­mu­nity that has lost its Torah scrolls has lost its heart”.

“Some­body found them in a field in Hert­ford­shire,” Rabbi Larry told the JC. “Hert­ford­shire po­lice col­lected them and brought them down to our lo­cal po­lice sta­tion. We went around there and iden­ti­fied them, signed the state­ment that we’d retrieved them and brought them home.

“They had taken away the breast­plate — be­cause it’s sil­ver — and they had taken off the man­tles. But when they saw what was in­side, they clearly de­cided it wasn’t worth their while so they just left them. They were still in the cab­i­net.”

He added: “Peo­ple have history with these scrolls, es­pe­cially a com­mu­nity like ours that has so few. One fam­ily do­nated one of the scrolls that has been re­cov­ered. The other was ac­quired by the com­mu­nity through dona­tions from a va­ri­ety of peo­ple.”

PC Louise Bates of Bar­net CID said ef­forts were con­tin­u­ing to ap­pre­hend the bur­glar.

“The scrolls were found in bushes near Bent­ley Heath Cricket Club on Wagon Road. Have you seen any­one dump­ing any­thing at the roadside there?”

Rabbi Larry Tabick with the scrolls

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