Photos: Report: Menachem Youlus is “Indiana Jones of Torah Recovery and Restoration”

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youlusMartha Wexler and Jeff Lunden report in this coming Sunday’s Washington Post:

[Photos below.] In October of 2001, Robert Kushner of Pittsburgh received an e-mail that got his heart racing. His nephew had come across a notice in a Jewish genealogical newsletter about a mass grave discovered outside the Ukrainian town of Kamenets-Podolsk. Along with the remains of Jews killed in the Holocaust, the grave contained two sacred Torah scrolls, one of them wrapped in a “Gestapo body bag.” A Maryland man had bought one Torah, the newsletter said, but the second scroll needed a home.

Kamenets-Podolsk was the town from which Kushner’s father had emigrated in 1920. One of his father’s sisters never left, and Kushner, 74, wondered, “Could her body be one of those buried in that mass grave?” He contacted the man who had made this horrific yet miraculous find: Rabbi Menachem Youlus, co-owner of the Jewish Bookstore of Greater Washington. Kushner and his wife traveled to the bookstore in Wheaton and found themselves charmed by the slightly built, chatty Orthodox rabbi.

“We literally fell in love with him,” Kushner says. “He exudes honesty, integrity. He’s as pleasant as could be.”

Youlus showed the Kushners the antique scroll and recounted his adventure: While traveling in Ukraine, Youlus was approached by an unnamed farmer who offered to sell him a handwritten map. As Kushner remembers the story, the farmer said he had been told by his father that if he ever encountered anyone wearing a skullcap, he should show him the map. The farmer led Youlus to his land, which had a pigsty built on a foundation of Jewish gravestones. Seeing Hebrew writing on the map, Youlus bought it and went off with the farmer to a spot marked on it. The rabbi started digging and uncovered a mass grave containing the bones of more than 200 people, as well as two relatively intact Torahs. He and his driver reburied the human remains and marked each individual grave with verses from the Book of Psalms. Months later, Youlus — who is also a Torah scribe — restored the Torahs to kosher condition so they could once again be read in synagogues.

Click here to read the full report in The Washington Post.

See below for photos of Menachem and his work:

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{The Washington Post/Noam Newscenter}


  1. I have had some commuincation with Rabbi Youlos in the past, He’s a very good man and he’s very devoted and feels as though he’s on a mission. But why give them to the reconstructionist synaogues with the female rabbis? Wouldn’t it be better that they remain in geniza?

  2. Menachem is well known as a Baal Chesed who has helped numerous downtrodden individuals and families, never seeking any fanfare or public acknowledgment for overextending himself on behalf of others. He has been involved for many years in kiruv (rechokim and krovim). It seemed apparent to me that his focus on putting Sifrei Torah into the hands of the Non-Religious was motivated by his desire to awaken the hearts of our brethren to Avinu Shebashamayim. Clearly (as evidenced by every article mentioning his work) he has succeeded in focusing attention by many non-religious congregations and individuals on the beauty and authenticity of Toras Hashem. Hopefully the little sparks that have been created by the “buzz” surrounding his work will turn into true flames yearning for more and returning neshamos with Teshuva Shelaima to their rightful place among Klal Yisroel.

    The accuracy of the details in the stories are as relevant as the details of stories told about the Besht and countless other Chassidishe Rebbes (which is where the term “Chassidishe Mayseh” comes from). The primary concern of all these stories isn’t whether they occurred in the exact manner stated, but whether they achieved their true purpose, which is to be mekarev libom shel yisroel l’Avihem Shebashamyim.

    His primary mission is to be Mekarev those who are slowly falling completely away from Yahadus to the point where there is nothing left to “ignite. We should only hope that those who felt a special connection to HKB”H at the time they’ve seen these Sifrei Torah will yearn for more, ultimately leading them to Avinu Shebashamayim.

  3. i agree with number 5, however, it becomes problematic when the Washington post profiles you and writes 3 times as much about the holes in what you do that what you actually do! i know R Youlis to a certain extent, and whatever his motivation might be to tell stories about these sifrei torah, he needs to be careful…when a big newspaper profiles you, you want them to talk about the good that you do, to possibly get more people to sponsor sifrei torah. i dont think this brings that message across…

  4. You must be kidding the details don’t matter??? Emes and Sheker – never confuse the two.

    We need to return to the bright line distinctions our grandparents saw.

    A sad story, if true.


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