Magazine article Tablet Magazine

'Jewish Indiana Jones' and the Fraud Charges

Magazine article Tablet Magazine

'Jewish Indiana Jones' and the Fraud Charges

Article excerpt

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. …

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