Youlus indicted faces charges of mail, wire fraud

Youlus indicted faces charges of mail, wire fraud

The federal indictment of Rabbi Menachem Youlus, a Maryland-based Torah scribe who stands accused selling Torah scrolls with fabricated histories as Holocaust relics, represents a kind of closure for some and a warning for others.
The warning: Fraud, as it relates to Holocaust scholarship and artifacts, is a serious problem, one that could strengthen the credibility of Holocaust deniers.
Youlus, the founder of Save a Torah, was arrested Wednesday, Aug. 24, and charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. Federal prosecuters also accused Youlus of embezzling money from his charity for personal use and making up his stories of rescuing Torahs seized by the Nazis.
According to the U.S. District Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, the Torah scrolls that Youlus claimed to have rescued were purchased from local dealers and lacked any connection to the Holocaust. The office also said that during many of the years in which Youlus claimed to be personally rescuing Torahs overseas, the Maryland resident had not even traveled internationally.
The statement said that Save a Torah had raised $1.2 million in contributions from 2004 to 2010.
One of the Torahs Youlus sold came to Pittsburgh, purchased by attorney Bob Kushner and donated to Beth El Congregation of the South Hills.
In a statement to the Chronicle, Kushner said the latest news reports contain nothing he didn’t know or expect, and that the Torah he donated still holds great meaning for him.
“Had Youlus story been true it would have been meaningful to me, of course it would,” Kushner said. “That said, what is most meaningful to me is that I donated a Torah to my shul in memory of a man I loved so dearly — my father, of blessed memory.
“As for Youlus,” Kushner added, “he will have to answer to the authorities — and to God.”
But Menachem Rosensaft, a professor of law, regular columnist for the Chronicle and vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, said the scam Youlus allegedly operated has tainted the scrolls themselves.
“They were kosher Torah scrolls all along, and the faked stories serve from a religious perspective to defame the Torah scrolls,” said Rosensaft, who has written several critical columns about Youlus. “The only thing these stories achieved’ was to defame the scroll.
Youlus alleged crimes place greater pressure on Holocaust scholars and those dealing with artifacts to demonstrate the veracity of their work.
“It now places everything under a cloud. It places every effort of this nature under a cloud and it shifts the burden, as it were, to some person to demonstrate that photographs or artifacts that were discovered are legitimate.”
He agreed with Kushner that Youlus must answer “for his moral crimes to himself and to God.
“Fortunately, he added, “we don’t have to wait that long and he in the meantime is going to be made to answer for his other misdeeds here on earth courtesy of the U.S. District Attorney from the Southern District of New York.
Youlus has claimed that he found the Torah scrolls in monastery basements, buried in the ground and in former concentration camps. To smuggle Torahs out of some countries, the rabbi has said he was beaten up and threatened.
(JTA contributed to this story.)

read more: