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