Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another Sefer Torah with legs

An “expensive” Sefer Torah was stolen from the Erlau Beis Medrash in Yerushalayim’s Katamon neighborhood on the night between the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah. The Sefer Torah was on the street level of the bet medrash, where a minyan was being held on yomtov for the youth, towards alleviating some of the overcrowded conditions in the main bet medrash. The gabbaim have filed a report with police and have decided to publicize the theft in the hope of alerting people should the thief try to sell it

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thief walks off with silver Judaica in Queens

People have to start to learn how to protect there synagogues. Synagogues are no longer the safe place we once thought them to be, as the rash of recent burglaries show.

Police arrested a Kew Gardens man Tuesday who allegedly stole two silver Torah crowns from Young Israel of Queens Valley in Kew Gardens Hills on Aug. 16 and other Judaica from two additional synagogues earlier this year.
Roman Iskhavov, 26, of 125th Street, was expected to be charged Wednesday with burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. He faces up to seven years in prison.It is alleged that Iskhakov made statements to the police admitting he took several of the items from two of the burglaries and sold them at pawn shops.
According to police, the first burglary took place on June 18 at Congregation Ahavath Sholom at 75-02 113 St. in Forest Hills, stealing Torah breast plates, a silver pointer, a wine cup and a silver-coated plate.
Then, on Aug. 14 he allegedly broke into Beth Gavriel Center for Bukharian Jews at 66-35 108 St., also in Forest Hills, and stole a silver plate, a silver pointer and a charity box containing $200.
Members of the Young Israel synagogue at 141-55 77 Ave. only realized last week that the two pieces that cover the Torah were missing. It had been believed that a volunteer had taken them home to polish prior to Rosh Hashanah, which is on Sept. 17. But Young Israel’s security cameras caught the thief entering the building and walking off with the silver.
The video shows a man wearing a black yarmulka on his head enter the building and pick up a prayer book. But he did not enter the sanctuary.
Instead, he went to the basement and took the Torah crowns while the people upstairs were participating in evening services. The crowns are worth $1,300.
The video also shows the man leaving the synagogue with the items in a plastic bag.
In February, a similar crime occurred only blocks away at Congregation Rachel Degel Israel on 68th Drive. Silver Torah items worth $15,000 were stolen. A man who lives nearby was arrested shortly afterward when police were tipped off by a pawnshop owner where the thief had tried to sell the items

Some thoughts of Hungarian Ketuvot and Gittin

I recently acquired a large collection of 19th century Hungarian Jewish Letters, Manuscripts, Ephemera etc and between them about 20 Ketuvot and a dozen or so Gittin from the mid 19th century from throughout Hungary. I tried fruitlessly to try to find a match, the marriage and divorce document of the same couple, but haven't had luck yet. I'll keep on looking though.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Protecting Your Rare Books: Maintaining the Right Environmental Conditions

                                                                                                                 By Joachim Koch
Regardless of where you live, maintaining the ideal environmental conditions in your personal library presents specific challenges. Conservation of rare books requires keeping your library at a certain temperature and humidity.
Paper products are hygroscopic, meaning that they easily absorb and release moisture. This means that your rare books respond to even the most minute variations in temperature and humidity by contracting and expanding. If temperature and humidity aren’t controlled over time, visible damage like warped covers and flaking ink can occur. The paper itself also begins to break down more rapidly.

While institutions may have the budget for expensive HVAC systems and other equipment, there are several simple, cost effective methods that you can use at home.

Keep your AC set to a consistent temperature. Fluctuations in temperature can accelerate deterioration. Consider keeping your home at a temperature where you’ll be relatively comfortable throughout the year.

During the winter, resist the urge to turn up the heat. You’ll save money on utilities and protect your rare books. Excess heat can be destructive and it can raise humidity beyond acceptable levels.

Store your books in a room without doors that open to the outside. Outside air not only contributes to temperature and humidity changes; it is also more likely to contain dirt and dust, which can damage your books.

Don’t open windows in your personal library. It may be tempting to do this if a room gets too warm in the winter, but you’ll reduce the humidity of the room—already difficult to maintain during colder months.

Remove books from direct sunlight. While short-term exposure isn’t the end of the world, long-term UV exposure will fade the dust jackets and covers of rare books and accelerate decomposition.

Place your books well away from radiators, vents, and other areas that may be subject to exceptionally high or low temperatures. You can block heat from radiators by placing an aluminum-covered wallboard in front of the radiator.

Know your materials. Parchment and vellum, for instance, require different environmental conditions. Group items that contain similar materials together and place them in locations that have conditions closest to their ideal.

Thieves sentenced for stealing 18th century Torah

from the Jerusalem Post:
J'lem court sentences 4 for stealing Jewish objects worth $1 mil. from Great Synagogue of Milano, bringing them to Israel.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court sentenced four people on Sunday to between nine months and four years imprisonment for stealing Jewish ritual and holy objects worth approximately $1 million from the Great Synagogue of Milan.
On February 1, the convicts stole various items from the synagogue, transported them to Paris and then brought them by plane to Israel. The stolen objects included rare crowns and ceremonial objects placed on Torah scrolls dating back to the 18th century.
Much of the hearing surrounded attempts by the mastermind of the theft, Meir Moalem, to convince the court to give him a light sentence.
Moalem and character witnesses, including his mother, described how he had had trouble supporting his family in Israel. They said that he had moved to Paris in order to try to better support the family.
Moalem said he had learned that he could buy people’s loyalty and could get people to work with him on any job, even if illegal, if he paid them enough. Moalem had paid various members of the team up to $70,000 to assist him in aspects of the theft.
Requesting a lenient punishment, he noted that he has turned over a new leaf since his arrest for this crime. He also noted that all of the items were returned to the Italian synagogue. Moalem also said he did not realize the extent of the value of the objects which he had stolen and was just trying to pay off his and his family’s debts.
The state sought a maximum punishment of five years in prison, arguing that the stolen objects had tremendous economic and historical value. According to the state, a clear message needed to be sent that such theft was even worse than run-of-the-mill crime and would carry a more severe punishment.
The prosecutors also did not believe Moalem’s story about not knowing the value of the objects, noting his intricate plans for the theft, hiring a team of assistants and the amount he paid his accomplices for their involvement.
In handing Moalem a four-year sentence, the court mostly accepted the state’s argument, finding that since Moalem found a purchaser for $285,000, he at least knew that the stolen objects were of high value.
The court also noted the significant negative impact that Moalem’s actions had on a treasured Italian Jewish community which has existed for centuries.