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‘Jewish Indiana Jones’ and the Fraud Charges

Menachem Youlus arrested for selling bogus rescued Torahs and pocketing the profits

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Menachem Youlus.(Guardian/AP)

In what should come as a surprise to no one, Menachem Youlus was arrested yesterday on charges of fraud, specifically mail and wire fraud, and embezzlement of funds from his Save a Torah charity, which sold Torahs purportedly rescued from former concentration camps. In January 2010, the Washington Post examined Youlus’ high-profile Torah sales, finding a surprising lack of documentation for such unusual discoveries:

In a 3-hour interview, Youlus is unable to provide a single name, date, place, photograph or document to back up the Auschwitz stories or any of the others. He says that until Save a Torah was founded in 2004, he kept no records. He refers all requests for documentation since then to the foundation’s president, investment banker Rick Zitelman of Rockville.

But in a late December meeting at The Washington Post, Zitelman, 54, shows no documentation for any of the scrolls, despite requests. Zitelman says the only paperwork he gets from Youlus is an invoice the rabbi himself writes up for each Torah. He says Youlus does not submit any airline tickets or hotel receipts for overseas missions. So where does he think Youlus finds the Torahs? “It’s my understanding these Torahs come from various locations, including monasteries, museums, antique shops, private owners and other places like that,” he says.

Menachem Rosensaft, a New York-based lawyer and vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, has been crying foul about Youlus for some time now. In Februry 2010, Rosensaft disputed Youlus’ accounts, specifically a story that involved piecing together portions of a Torah hidden separately at Auschwitz and receiving the final piece from a local priest:

It gets worse. There are no records of any such priest ever having existed, and Youlus refuses to identify him by name. Youlus could not have come across a Torah scroll, or anything else for that matter, in the barracks of Bergen-Belsen, where both my parents were liberated, for the simple reason that all the barracks of that camp were burned in May 1945 in order to contain a raging typhus epidemic. And Youlus peddled the “Ukrainian mass-grave” scrolls to five separate congregations, assuring each that it was buying one of two, to use the art world term, limited editions.

Rosensaft got serious about Youlus owning up to his actions, asking politicians to take action. “He and Save a Torah,” Rosensaft wrote in the Huffington Post in March 2010, “which shamelessly continues to solicit funds on its website, must now be held accountable, both legally and morally.”

Over a year later, it seems that process has finally started.

Rabbi who claimed to rescue Holocaust Torahs arrested on fraud charges
Rabbi Fabricated Swashbuckling Tales of Saving Holocaust Torahs, Prosecutors Say [NYT]
Two Torahs, Two Holocaust Stories and One Big Question [NYT]
Earlier: Save a Torah Controversy Prompts Deal

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We have enough enemies around us ,we really don’t need some more inside our own people!

Hershl says:

What moron wrote this article?

“In what should come as a surprise to no one…” , you write.

Well, dear scrivener, you obviously need to take Journalism 101 over again.

Did you interview people in Wheaton, MD or anywhere near here?

I live here, the epicenter of this entire mess.

I know Menachem Youlus quite well and have for over 15 years.

The fact is that this community is absolutely in denial. It is not as obvious as it is to you, sitting at your computer, creating a story from ripped off bits of net prose.

First of all, the man is a true mentsch if you were to meet him.

Did you personally speak with him in preparation for tearing him apart?

I gave him money toward his project, money which I would never have given had I thought he was a crook and liar.

Menachem is one of the most generous people you will ever meet. He is constantly helping others without any fanfare or obvious reward.

I have seen him working on Torah scrolls many times; he is a sofer ( look it up).

He fixes t’fillin ( look it up), and other things with shemos ( look it up).

Let’s let the court decide his guilt, not yet another ignorant journo.

Jacob says:

I’d venture to say that Jews are for the most part, shysters. I have not met one that I thought was a stand up individual. Oh…and you will be judged by the law which you live by…because you cannot possibly fulfill them all, so you will never attain salvation. How does that make you feel.

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reader says:

I was shocked to read this publication. Do you know Menachem personally? I do. I have known him for over 18 years and he has always proved himself a fine, upstanding individual in all aspects of life. I was also deeply dismayed to see such biased and unfounded opinions posted on public forum, so readily defaming and destroying an innocent man and his family without thinking twice.If he is proved innocent, will you say that that, as well, “should come as a surprise to no one”? Do you simply want to be in the know and flippantly accuse people you’ve never met, or do you want to expose the truth? Sadly, it appears as if this piece was written with unabashed antisemitism and uneducated bias. I can personally attest to his innocence- in fact, I have seen some of the rescued Torahs and have been in the bookstore on numerous occasions. Please check your sources next time.


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‘Jewish Indiana Jones’ and the Fraud Charges

Menachem Youlus arrested for selling bogus rescued Torahs and pocketing the profits

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