Miami Beach, FL – A Flatbush resident who winters in Florida is hoping that a sefer Torah that he kept in a Miami Beach synagogue has been accidentally borrowed and not stolen.
Numerous sifrei Torah were brought to Tower 41 on 41st Street and Pinetree Drive for safekeeping in the days prior to Hurricane Irma. The building, which has more than 400 luxury condominium units and is just two blocks from the ocean, is home to Chevra Shas, which operates both an Ashkenaz and a Sefard synagogue on the premises.
With Miami Beach under a mandatory evacuation order during the days before Irma slammed into Florida as a category four hurricane, area synagogues scrambled to find appropriate locations to house their Torahs during the storm. Several chose Tower 41, which has two large generators as a secure location, and according to Chevra Shas’s executive director Ziv Tamir, the building was the only one on Miami Beach that had electricity as Irma’s winds and rains thrashed the area.
“Florida Power and Light normally turns off power during major storms for security reasons,” Tamir told VIN News. “But for some reason they never turned off our electricity.”
Tamir said that eight Torahs were brought to Tower 41 by members of the local Bucharian community, with an unknown number of additional Torahs weathering the storm in the building. While some were placed in the two synagogues for safekeeping, others were housed in private apartments.
It wasn’t until just before Rosh Hashana, that Mordy Sohn, a Tower 41 board member who owns two sifrei Torah kept in the Ashkenaz synagogue, noticed that one of his Torahs was missing.
“I got that Torah from my father in law,” said Sohn. “He had for about 40 or 50 years and he gave it to us about ten years ago.”
Sohn made the discovery on the night of September 18th, when he went to go prepare his Torahs for Rosh Hashana, two days before the holiday.
“I put the white mantel on one of the Torahs and I was holding the second mantel,” said Sohn. “I asked someone to take out the second Torah for me and he told me it wasn’t there.”
The large and heavy blue velvet covered Torah had never been appraised but had clear markings indicating its ownership.
“There are two plates on the top, on the atzei chaim, that have our names on it,” said Sohn.
The synagogues are open during the day and are typically locked at night and Tamir said that he has no idea if the rooms had been properly secured during the pre-Irma chaos. Neither synagogue has a safe for its Torahs which are usually secured by combination locks, whose codes of 613 are known to many.
“Let this be a lesson to other shuls out there to up their security,” observed Tamir.
Five other Torahs that were in the aron kodesh at the time of the theft were untouched as were assorted silver ornaments. Because a large number of unit owners at Tower 41 rent out their apartments to vacationers, many of the people who use the synagogue are there for only days at a time and would not know how many Torahs should have been in the aron kodesh, said Tamir, who rode out the hurricane in Atlanta.
Sohn is hopeful that his Torah was accidentally taken by someone who was making a simcha or who mistakenly took the Torah thinking it belonged to their synagogue. He has yet to report the missing scroll to the police and is optimistic that once word gets out, the person who has the Torah will return it to Tower 41.
“We are hoping that someone has seen something or knows something about the missing Torah and that we get it back in the next few days,” said Tamir.
Anyone with any information about the missing Torah is asked to contact Ziv Tamir at 305-922-9033 or at ChevraShas.org