Hampstead Jewish community in mourning as Torah scrolls worth £40,000 stolen

Two Torah scrolls stolen from a Jewish community in Hampstead (Picture: Met Police)

Two Torah scrolls stolen from a Jewish community in Hampstead (Picture: Met Police) - Credit: Archant

Two precious Torah scrolls have been stolen from a Rabbi’s “ransacked” house in Barnet, leaving a Hampstead Jewish community ‘in mourning’.

Police are seeking witnesses to a burglary that took place in Ashbourne Grove at around 5.30pm on March 22 where the occupant came face to face with a masked intruder.

The burglar tore a safe off the wall containing two Torah scrolls, each worth around £20,000 and of incalculable spiritual value, police said.

The scrolls belong to the Hampstead Reform Jewish community and like all Torah scrolls, they contain hand-written Hebrew text.

One of the scrolls is around 24 inches tall, the other around 18ins, and both have distinctive decorative handles.

Only the smaller scroll was with its silver breastplate.

Officers are seeking a white man, around 5ft 10ins in height and dressed in black with a scarf across his face.

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Rabbi Larry Tabick and Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, who own the property, said: “It was a great shock to find that our home had been ransacked and an even greater shock for our lodger who came face to face with a masked intruder.”

They said they were initially relieved that little of what they owned was missing then noticed a metal cabinet had gone.

They added: “It contained two Torah scrolls - scrolls of the first five books of the Bible - belonging to Shir Hayim, the Hampstead Reform Jewish Community, which it is Larry’s honour to serve. It was gone, ripped from the wall.”

They explained: “Torah scrolls are always hand-written on parchment in Hebrew by trained scribes. Ours had wooden handles at both ends to facilitate rolling to the place where the required reading is. Both had velvet mantles, one blue, one red, with gold-embroidered Hebrew words, and trimmed with gold braid. That fact that scrolls are hand-written in itself means that they are expensive to replace.

“But this is not an issue of cost. Their real value is symbolic, and deeply spiritual. “Every religious Jew, no matter their persuasion, reveres the Torah scrolls and the words and teachings they contain.

“Every religious Jewish community reads from scrolls like these every Sabbath and on all Jewish festivals.

“In fact, the Torah reading forms the heart of these services. A community that has lost its Torah scrolls has lost its heart, and it is a cause for mourning, almost as if a much-loved relative and friend had died.

“The Hampstead Reform Jewish Community is mourning with us.

“Of course, the scrolls can be replaced, but we have come to love them. They were deliberately small so almost any of our members could carry them on procession, and nearly all of us have done so over the years. Many families have celebrated the coming of age of their children, their forthcoming weddings, and other occasions, and commemorated their departed loved ones by reading from these very scrolls. Some have donated towards their purchase and upkeep. With their disappearance, part of our history has been lost.”

Anyone with information about the burglary, or who may have seen or been offered the two scrolls for sale, is asked to contact Barnet CID on 020 8733 4439, the police via 101 or via Twitter @MetCC.

Anonymous callers can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org