Rabbi Busts Trio Of Thieves Stealing Copper Memorials From Historic Shul


beth-hamedrash-hagado-nycThe NY Daily News reports: Three punks were charged with breaking into a historic Lower East Side synagogue after a rabbi spotted them trying to steal copper memorials from a wall.

Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum was checking on Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on Sunday when he saw the men stacking the plates inside the Norfolk Street landmark, which has been closed for several years.

“I ran out and called the cops immediately,” Greenbaum said. “I just wanted to cry at seeing such desecration.”

Jose Cruz, Ambioris Gonzalez and Carlos Rodriguez were charged with burglary and damaging houses of worship or religious articles for the break-in at the temple, which is the oldest Russian Jewish Orthodox congregation in the country.

In addition to trying to make off with the copper memorials, which list the names of deceased synagogue members, the three men are accused of damaging several religious articles, including prayer books, a scroll and an ark.

“I was checking on some Hebrew books when I saw them,” Greenbaum said.

Cruz, 33, was seen walking out of the synagogue, according to a criminal complaint, while Gonzalez, 23, and Rodriguez, 39, were found laying beneath a table.

A menorah was also defaced, Manhattan prosecutors said.

“It’s just a travesty that people are going after (the synagogue) in this way,” said Laurie Tobias Cohen, executive director of the Lower East Side Conservancy, which is leading preservation efforts at the nearly 160-year-old building. “This is a really historic site in terms of New York history.”

Built in 1850, the building was once home to the Baptist congregation that started Riverside Church. Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in the 1880s.

Bail was set at $10,000 for Gonzalez and $15,000 for Rodriguez, while Cruz was awaiting arraignment.

A defense lawyer for Rodriguez said he’s homeless and was only in the synagogue because he saw an open door. The lawyer said Gonzalez didn’t touch anything in the temple, and that he was sleeping there after his wife booted him from his Brooklyn home during an argument.

{NY Daily News/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. This is the Beis Hamedresh Hagadol shul in the lower east side of Manhattan. Rav Oshry was the Rav for many years.Rav Oshri wrote Shailos and Tshuvos Mimamakim from the holocaust. “It is a Norfolk Street landmark, which has been closed for several years and needs funds for repair.”