Stolen Torahs Recovered By Police
By Michael Lanza
Eight Torahs stolen from the Jewish Center at Kew Garden Hills were recovered last Wednesday after a police investigation fingered one of the center’s custodians as the culprit.
Eric Giraldo, a custodian at the Jewish Center, was charged with grand larceny after prosecutors said he stole the scrolls from a secure ark inside the Jewish Center and stored them at his friend’s home. Alan Lozano was also arrested and charged with criminal possession of stolen property after police recovered the scrolls from his closet.
“You’re in shock who did it,” one synagogue member said of the revelation. “I can’t believe he would do something like that – so stupid.”
The Torahs, whose value is estimated at $60,000 each, were reported stolen on Aug. 16.
Torahs are calligraphic scrolls that contain passages from the Old Testament. Unlike printed religious texts, the Torahs are more works of art than documents. Each scroll is handwritten and meticulously crafted by trained calligraphers on special parchment and adorned with lavish decorative patterns. A single Torah can take a year to complete.
Investigators suspected an inside job from the start. There were no signs of damage and the alarm did not sound when the scrolls were stolen, leading police to believe that whoever stole the scrolls already had access to the ark and the keys to open it.
While the scrolls remain in police custody as the theft is prosecuted, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown assured the synagogue that they would be returned in time for High Holy Days at the end of the month. A member of the Jewish Center said they expect the scrolls will be returned within two weeks.
If convicted, Giraldo and Lozano face up to 15 years in prison.