2 stolen Torah scrolls recovered by police

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ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — Using an undercover cop posing as a rabbi, police last week recovered two Torah scrolls recently stolen from a New Jersey synagogue.

Englewood police Lt. Scott Jenkins said the scrolls and their ornaments are in good condition.

The scrolls were taken from Temple Emanu-El during a break-in at 3:20 a.m. Oct. 18. The gold and silver crowns and breastplates, hand-made by artisans in Portugal, were part of a set of eight that uses the theme of the Burning Bush to frame various episodes in Jewish history.

The Englewood and New York City police departments conducted a joint investigation, and a telephone tip started the ball rolling.

In a Hollywood-style sting, "an undercover police officer from New York City acted as a rabbi" and a potential buyer, Jenkins said. When the individual came to pick up his money about 10 officers were on the scene, a Manhattan storefront.

The suspect confessed, Jenkins said, and the Torahs were found during a search of his Manhattan apartment. Also recovered was an automatic pistol.

The suspect is identified as Charlie Jones, 30. He has been charged with criminal possession of stolen property and a weapon.

N.Y. police Det. Joseph Pentangelo said the suspect "apparently was familiar with the value of the property."

The pair of scrolls and their ornaments have been estimated to be worth $100,000.

Rabbi Geoffrey Haber, Temple Emanu-El's spiritual leader, said a scribe will inspect the scrolls. Once they are deemed kosher for use, the congregation will rededicate them at a ceremony.