Sunday, January 31, 2010

Washington Post Questions Provenance of Holocaust Era Torahs

In a lengthy article in its Sunday Magazine, the Washington Post has questioned whether rescued Torah scrolls actually have the associations with the Holocaust Rabbi Menachem Youlus and his "Save a Torah Foundation" claims. See

The article also touches on patrimony issues, explaining that

"Eastern European countries consider the scrolls their cultural property and severely restrict their export."

Yet, the article also notes that

"Many state museums and archives in Eastern Europe -- including some in former monasteries -- do hold hundreds of scrolls. And half a dozen major Jewish organizations, backed by the U.S. State Department, have been pressing governments in the region to return them to Jewish hands in an orderly fashion."

[How odd then that another part of the State Department (the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) is working to repatriate other Torah scrolls to a far more unfriendly area these days for practitioners of the Jewish faith-- Iraq. See and

And it should be noted that the Rabbi's other efforts included helping to rescue just such a Torah from Iraq before these restrictions were put in place. See]

In any event, other publications and blogs have already taken notice of the Washington Post story, and have more clearly suggested outright fraud may be involved. See and

Others, however, are a bit more charitable. In closing, the Washington Post quotes one such expert as saying,

"As for Youlus's Torah rescue stories, Berenbaum came to his own conclusion. "A psychiatrist might say they are delusional. A historian might say they are counter-factual. A pious Jew might call them midrash -- the stories we tell to underscore the deepest truths we live," he says. Midrash, in this context, refers to the ancient tradition of rabbis telling anecdotes and fables to convey a moral lesson. "Myth underscores the deepest truth we live," Berenbaum says."

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