Desecration at synagogue leads to fast

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2011
Some of the badly damaged sifrei Torah cases at Magen Avraham

Some of the badly damaged sifrei Torah cases at Magen Avraham

Members of a London synagogue observed a special fast on Monday after a burglary in which its Torah scrolls were dumped on the floor.

Thousands of pounds' worth of silver artefacts and scroll cases were stolen from Magen Avraham, a congregation of Aden Jews in Finchley, late last Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday.

Police were unable to say if the attack was linked to a series of synagogue burglaries which took place in and around Golders Green and Hendon earlier this year.

But members of Magen Avraham believe that since the synagogue is situated in what looks like an ordinary house, whoever carried out the theft must have known what they were looking for.

Worshippers found the six scrolls on the floor of the synagogue when they came for the morning service on Friday.

"It was extremely distressing," said Etan Shelemay, chairman of the synagogue committee.

The scrolls were contained, Sephardi-style, in wooden boxes overlaid with silver.

"They broke the front door of the ark and the inside railing," Mr Shelemay said. "They took each sefer Torah out on the ground and stripped all the silver off the boxes and took the rimonim (bells), breastplace and the yads (pointers).

"The actual scrolls were undamaged, but most of the boxes were damaged.

"The rule of thumb is that if a sefer Torah falls on the floor, for those who see it, it would be good to fast one day. For people who do not see it, it is good to fast half a day."

He could not give a figure on how much the stolen silver was worth. But one scroll in particular had sentimental value, he said, because it had been commissioned in memory of the last dayan (senior judge) of the Adeni Jewish community, before the exodus of most Jews in 1967 following the Six Day War.

Last updated: 3:39pm, May 12 2011