Brooklyn,NY Seforim worth over $400,000 were returned to a Brooklyn synagogue Friday a little over a month after they were snatched.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Rabbi Meir Rokeach were present at the synagogue when the 96 Seforim or texts were returned to Congregation Maase Rokeach on 12th Ave. and 54th St. in Borough Park after the April 2 heist.
“I can’t describe to you the pain that it caused the Rabbi Rokeach,” Hikind (D-Brooklyn) said of the theft.
“These books are so precious, and so holy, and so significant. They’re irreplaceable.”
The Borough Park Shmira, a community safety patrol, was key to the recovery of the books.
Its members pored over surveillance video to help identify one of the thieves and arranged for the books to be returned, Hikind’s office said.
Word of the theft went out to the Jewish community worldwide and those who deal in rare religious texts, and soon calls were coming in to the synagogue about the books, as well as an extortion attempt from the very people who stole them.
“At one point we received a phone call from somebody who said he was somewhere in the world … saying he had information about these and all he needed was $70,000 to convince those that took the books to get them back,” Hikind said.
“It turns out the person who made that phone call was the person who actually was responsible for taking those books.”
The books have been passed down from fathers to sons for many generations.
The seforim were scattered throughout the world, with book dealers as far away as Los Angeles, Russia, and Canada, and it took 40 days to get the books back to New York. All were returned and all were in the same condition according to Levi Leifer Of Shmira Patrol.
“This is really a very joyous occasion, and a great way to go into the Sabbath.”
The books were presented to the sons of Rabbi Rokeach and were to be placed back in the library. There is now a security system in place to prevent another theft.
“There’s a lesson in this for everyone,” Hikind said. “Everyone who can afford to should put up surveillance cameras — and everyone should be eager to share video footage with the police and local security patrols when necessary.”