I understand it, the sacred Jewish profession of holy scribe is a difficult,
time-consuming profession. Doing the job well doesn't make anyone rich. There
are limited hours in the day. It's hard to do any other sort of work and take on
projects, especially large ones, like Torah Scrolls.
Tonight, after Shabbat, when I turned on the computer and began checking my
mail, I saw a short disturbing article in the
New York Post about a possible scam. Rabbi Menachem Youlus has been selling
what he claims to be pre-Holocaust era Torah Scrolls he has dramatically rescued
from mass graves, concentration camps etc.
His adventure stories about these rescues are more exciting than fiction, and
more and more people suspect that they are fiction. I "googled" and found a
longer more detailed article in the
It's the numbers which make his stories tall tales. How could he have time to
travel between the states and Europe, rescue hundreds of Torah Scrolls and also
On his Save a Torah promotional video, posted on the Web in 2007, Youlus says he
has rescued 500 Torahs since he began his mission a quarter-century ago. The
number Youlus gives on this spring afternoon in 2009 has soared to 1,100.
According to Jewish Law, exact financial records are supposed to be kept.
In a 3-hour interview, Youlus is unable to provide a single name, date, place,
photograph or document to back up the Auschwitz stories or any of the others. He
says that until Save a Torah was founded in 2004, he kept no records. He refers
all requests for documentation since then to the foundation's president,
investment banker Rick Zitelman of Rockville.
But in a late December meeting at The Washington Post, Zitelman, 54, shows no
documentation for any of the scrolls, despite requests. Zitelman says the only
paperwork he gets from Youlus is an invoice the rabbi himself writes up for each
Torah. He says Youlus does not submit any airline tickets or hotel receipts for
It just doesn't make sense.