NY District Attorney’s Office Hands Over Rescued Torahs to JDC for Overseas Communities

In time for Simchat Torah next week, Jewish communities in Sofia, Bulgaria and Belgrade, Serbia will each get a very special delivery about which to rejoice: a torah. The two Torahs, which were stolen by a Brooklyn man and ended up in the hands of the New York District Attorney’s office, are being donated by JDC to these Eastern European communities. In Sofia, the Torah will help replace scrolls stolen from the synagogue 10 years ago. In Belgrade, it will be the first kosher Torah used since the breakup of Yugoslavia when Jewish community assets were divided.

September 22, 2010

(Left to right) Ken Witover, JDC Board Member; Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau; Alan Jaffe, President, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York / JDC Treasurer.

In time for Simchat Torah next week, Jewish communities in Sofia, Bulgaria and Belgrade, Serbia will each get a very special delivery about which to rejoice: a torah. The two Torahs, which were stolen by a Brooklyn man and ended up in the hands of the New York District Attorney’s office, are being donated by JDC to these Eastern European communities. In Sofia, the Torah will help replace scrolls stolen from the synagogue 10 years ago. In Belgrade, it will be the first kosher Torah used since the breakup of Yugoslavia when Jewish community assets were divided.

In an exchange widely covered by the media, including The Daily News, WNYC News, eJewish Philanthropy, and DNAInfo, the 150-year-old scrolls were handed over to JDC yesterday, under the supervision of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and current DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The Torahs will be delivered early next week to their new homes in Eastern Europe, where JDC has been working since the fall of communism to rekindle Jewish tradition and community.

And as if placing Torahs into good hands weren’t cause enough for celebration, the thread of the Morgenthau family in rebuilding Jewish life around the globe certainly is. It was Robert Morgenthau’s grandfather, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., who in his service as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey cabled New York philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff asking for $50,000 to feed starving Jews in then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. This marked the unofficial founding of JDC as an organization in 1914. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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