Calling 'Bull' on the Save a Torah Foundation

In the early summer of 2008 there was a great deal of discussion on the Iraq Crisis List about a Torah that Rabbi Menachem Youlus of Save a Torah had claimed to have smuggled out of Mosul in March 2007 with the help of the 82nd Airborne. The link to the original story that sparked the debate is now dead, but a version is here.

If you now click onto the Save a Torah  website, there is an interesting statement about a Maryland investigation. That's because the Washington Post and the New York Times pointed out that it was almost impossible for various Torah scrolls he sold to have been from concentration camps, as Menachem Youlus claimed.

The truth about the origins of the Iraqi Torah got lost in a discussion of where the Iraqi Jewish Archive should end up - I think it should not go back to Baghdad. I did however get in touch with various government agencies, including the NCIS at Fort Bragg, where the 82nd Airborne are based, and ask for alleged smuggling by our servicemen be looked into.

As far as anyone has been able to work out, although some of the 82nd Airborne were in Baiji in early March 2007, none were in a combat situation Youlus described in Mosul. Baiji is on the Baghdad - Mosul road, but some distance away. Servicemen in combat also tend to be too busy fighting to dig holes and loot cultural heritage - that's what the US Army was doing when Baghdad Museum was ransacked by Iraqi looters in 2003.

The Torah supposedly smuggled out of Iraq was 're-housed' in Temple Isaiah, a synagogue in Fulton, Maryland. I can't tell much from their web site photo of their Torahs - here - but since Youlus is a book dealer as well as a rabbi, I assume he at least sold them an old Iraqi Torah that he'd picked up somewhere.

Youlus and Save a Torah's tales of smuggling Torahs out of Iraqi - 'rescuing' them - seem to be as delusional as his claims of having sold Torahs 'rescued' from Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. And pure fiction.

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