“Thousands of Torah scrolls bought by wealthy evangelicals are not just being mishandled and used to boost Christian beliefs, but exploited as a multimillion-dollar tax write-off.”
So writes a Daily Beast article in an attempt to understand why the evangelical Museum of the Bible in Washington DC has 1,835 disqualified sifrei Torah among its 2,559 items, with only about ten of them in standard display cases.
The Green family, among the key founders of the museum, have another few thousand sifrei Torah at their Hobby Lobby craft store compound in Oklahoma City. The owners of the furniture chain Slumberland also purchased 50 scrolls and plan to give them all away.
The Museum of the Bible claims it buys the seforim to save them from genizah even though there are no indications that this has been done, and also to convey “the consistency of Jewish Scriptures.”
But the Daily Beast gathered evidence that a major motive for prolific sifrei Torah donations is a loophole in tax law. While a disqualified sefer Torah can be bought for between $7,500 to $10,500, for 100% tax write-offs it can be appraised at the much higher sum of about $70,000 and over $250,000 if it is hundreds of years old and survived the Holocaust.