GAMBIER — On Aug. 24, Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ronald J. Verrochio, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service, announced the arrest of Rabbi Menachem Youlus, a founder of the Save A Torah Inc. charity.
Youlus was charged with several counts of fraud for his role in selling and/or donating Jewish Torahs that he claimed had significant historic value. Youlus claimed these Torahs had been rescued by him and had been lost or hidden during the Holocaust. He is charged with defrauding the Save A Torah charity and its donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Youlus is specifically charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, twice the gross gain to the defendant, or twice the gross loss to others, whichever is greatest.
In a statement released by Bharara several examples were given of Youlus’ alleged falsehoods. For example, “Youlus claimed that, in 2002, he discovered a Torah that was hidden during World War II at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany, which is now a national memorial museum. Specifically, Youlus claimed that during a visit to the concentration camp, he fell through the floorboards of a barracks where, after hours of digging, the Bergen-Belsen Torah was discovered. Youlus’ account, however, was contradicted by historical evidence showing that the barracks at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp were completely destroyed by the British Army several weeks after the camp was liberated at the end of World War II.”
One of those Torahs in question was purchased by Michael and Deborah Salzberg and donated to Kenyon College in 2007. Deborah Salzberg is a Kenyon College Trustee.