Rabbi Menachem Youlus seemed to be a devout
man with a mission. Unfortunately,
his mission was fraud.
It was an uplifting story.
In 2008, The New York Times article "From Auschwitz, a Torah as Strong as Its Spirit" told an inspirational story about lost Jewish religious scrolls and the man who searched for them:
The back story of how a Torah got from the fetid barracks of Auschwitz to the ark of the Central Synagogue at Lexington Avenue and 55th Street is one the pastor of the Lutheran church down the street sums up as simply "miraculous."…
This Torah remained hidden for more than 60 years, buried where the sexton had put it, until Rabbi Menachem Youlus, who lives in Wheaton, Md., and runs the nonprofit Save a Torah foundation, began looking for it about eight years ago. Over two decades, Rabbi Youlus said, the foundation has found more than 1,000 desecrated Torahs and restored them, a painstaking and expensive process. This one was elusive. But Rabbi Youlus was determined.
Rabbi Youlus was determined, yes, but he was a determined fraud.
The Torahs sold by Rabbi Youlus were fake, and he diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from his charity to himself.
He had never visited the countries he claimed to have visited.
One of his lies aroused suspicions when he said he had fallen through the floorboards at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and discovered an old Torah.
Bergen-Belsen had been burnt to the ground by the British army.
Four years after the first article, this appeared in The New York Times in which he was quoted:
"Between 2004 and 2010, I falsely represented that I had personally obtained vintage Torah scrolls in particular ways, in particular locations in Europe and Israel," he told Judge Colleen McMahon of Federal District Court. "I know what I did was wrong, and I deeply regret my conduct."
The rabbi, 50, then pleaded guilty to mail fraud and wire fraud, admitting that he had used the United States Postal Service and e-mails to further a scheme to steal money while claiming to be saving and restoring historic Torahs.
The moral of the story?
Beware the hero who tells a tale that sounds too amazing.
– Rabbi Admits Torah Tales Were a Fraud, The New York Times>>
– From Auschwitz, a Torah as Strong as Its Spirit , The New York Times>>
– ‘Jewish Indiana Jones’ charged with fraud, The Washington Post>>