Cricket club officer is bowled over by synagogue's thank you for finding stolen scrolls

Derek Francis tells Shir Hayim Reform congregants that, living among the Charedi community in Stamford Hill, he knew the significance of the items


A north London synagogue held a special Shabbat service to thank the cricket club official who found its stolen sifrei Torah.

The two scrolls belonging to the Shir Hayim Reform congregation in Hampstead were taken in a locked cabinet during a burglary at the Mill Hill home of rabbis Jackie and Larry Tabick in March.

Shir Hayim was “in mourning” at the loss and, issuing an appeal for information, the Metropolitan Police described the sifrei Torah as having “incalculable spiritual value” to the community.

Three weeks after the burglary, Rufus Francis spotted the items in the grounds of Bentley Heath Cricket Club, which is located between Barnet and Potters Bar.

Mr Francis, the club’s welfare officer, informed the police, who reunited the shul with the scrolls.

He and his wife Naomi were guests of Shir Hayim at a service featuring the recovered sifrei Torah.

The couple were presented with glass candlesticks as a symbol of the community’s gratitude.

“I hope we made them feel welcome,” said Rabbi Larry Tabick, its minister for 24 years.

“We gave them front row seats and guided them through the prayer book. I invited them up to see the scrolls when it came to the reading of the Torah. And during the kiddush, Mr Francis told us the story of how he found them.”

Mr Francis told the JC afterwards that living among the Charedi community in Stamford Hill, he immediately recognised the significance of the scrolls.

“I was lucky to find them because they were quite concealed. Someone had obviously thrown them behind the fence.

“Maybe they were hoping to find guns as it was very obviously a gun cabinet [they were contained in]. I didn’t know at the time where they were from but knew they were quite valuable to whoever had lost them. The next day we informed the police.”

Mr Francis approached Rabbi Tabick about attending a service, saying he would stand at the back and observe.

“He said: ‘Well actually you should be the guest of honour and stand in the front.’ It was quite touching. 

“I was pleased to see the scrolls back in their rightful position in the synagogue. During the service the rabbi’s wife said that for three or four days she hadn’t been able to eat or sleep properly, which put it all into perspective.”

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