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Save a Torah Controversy Prompts Deal

Nonprofit pledges stricter authentication standards

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Rabbi Youlus at work in 2008.(Brendan Hoffman/NYT)

A Torah owned by the Upper East Side’s Central Synagogue that purportedly had been used by Auschwitz prisoners may not actually have come from the camp. So, Save a Torah, a Rockville, Maryland-based nonprofit that restores scrolls and had authenticated this particular one, struck a deal with local authorities only to authenticate Torahs “if there is documentation or an independent verifiable witness to such history.” It added: “In the absence of such independent verifiable proof, there will be no discussion of the circumstances under which the Torah was rescued.”

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a lawyer and activist, wrote to Maryland’s attorney general earlier this year alleging fraud and/or misrepresentation concerning Save a Torah rabbi Menachem Youlus’ contention that the Torah in question had been salvaged from Auschwitz by a Polish priest.

While Youlus had made this judgment in 2008, Rosensaft, who has taught legal classes on war crimes trials, disputed the provenances of the Auschwitz Torah and another authenticated by Save a Torah, this supposedly from Bergen-Belsen:

The original buildings at Bergen-Belsen, he said, were burned to stop a typhus epidemic and the survivors were moved to a former German military installation nearby in May 1945. Mr. Rosensaft said that he was born in that installation in 1948 and returned many times to visit.

“The brick barracks to which the survivors were moved did not have wooden floorboards,” Mr. Rosensaft said, “and they’re now a NATO base, populated by British military personnel, so there is no way Youlus could have gotten there, either.”

Deal Over Claims To Rescued Torahs’ Provenances [City Room]
Related: From Auschwitz, a Torah as Strong as Its Spirit [NYT]

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Save a Torah Controversy Prompts Deal

Nonprofit pledges stricter authentication standards

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