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August 24, 2021 12:04 pm

Search Underway for Torah Scrolls Stolen From Long Island Synagogue

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Members of Chabad of the Beaches synagogue on Long Island and local safety officers search for sacred items stolen on Aug. 21, 2021. Photo: Twitter.

A search continued Tuesday in Long Island for sacred items stolen from a Long Beach synagogue by a local mentally ill man who was arrested the next day.

Local ABC affiliate Channel 7 reported that among the items stolen from Chabad of the Beaches synagogue on Saturday were Torah scrolls, a Torah crown, prayer shawls, and others.

While many of the items have been found, two Torah scrolls are missing.

Rabbi Eli Goodman, who was the first witness to the robbery, said, “These Torahs have been used for many, many decades. We want to get them back in any shape or form.”

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Local police said Tuesday that authorities had conducted their third sweep of the coastline in the hopes of finding the remaining objects.

On Sunday, Long Beach Police Commissioner Ronald Walsh announced the arrest of Hunter McElrath (aka Alexander McElrath) on charges of burglary, criminal mischief, and grand larceny in connection with the synagogue theft.

McElrath, whose last known residence was on Staten Island, is believed to be mentally ill and is now in medical confinement.

Walsh said McElrath was seen by several people on Saturday on the Long Beach boardwalk in the nude, wearing the Torah crown he had stolen and a Yad from a Torah scroll, which witnesses mistook for a weapon.

The police do not believe that the motive behind the burglary was antisemitic.

McElrath is refusing to tell police what he did with the items that have not been found, and it is possible they were thrown into the sea. As a result, police are conducting a thorough search on land and asking beachgoers to report any sightings of the stolen items.

“We have scoured every backyard, every garbage pail, every bush in a grid along this entire neighborhood,” Walsh said.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said, “My heart breaks for the many families who call the Chabad of the Beaches their spiritual home, and I want them to know the Town of Hempstead stands with them during this sad hour.”

“These shorefront safety patrols led by the Town will help aid in the search of the many sacred items taken during this incident, and raise awareness amongst the general public to remain vigilant as the recovery mission continues,” he added.

Police have asked the public to call the Long Beach Police Department Detective Division at 516-705-7320 if they have any information.

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