A local rabbi claims to have traveled the world rescuing torahs now he faces fraud charges.
He called himself the Jewish Indiana Jones because of his hair-raising adventures rescuing sacred torahs from the holocaust. He is now charged with faking his stories and embezzling.
Rabbi Menachem Youlus is out on $100,000 bail. The scandal around the 50-year-old scribe has shaken the Jewish community.
He claimed to travel the world rescuing sacred torahs that had been in concentration camps in Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. Officials allege those were lies to pump up donations to the charity he cofounded, called 'save a torah', and to inflate prices of torahs he'd actually bought from local dealers.
“Sad to see a rabbi in the headline like that. It's sad to see anything to do with torah scroll that isn't holy,” said rabbi Bill Rudolph of congregation Beth El in Bethesda.
Rabbi Rudolph says Youlus was a great storyteller and was used by many area synagogues to repair sacred torahs. If the charges are true, they feel betrayed.
“We're dealing with the most holy thing that there is in Judaism, and everything about it should be holy, too,” Rudolph said.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say Youlus steered more than a million dollars into his Jewish bookstore on Georgia Avenue in Wheaton and embezzled thousands more for private school tuition and other personal uses.
Youlus' s attorney says his client is innocent. His father wouldn’t comment on Thursday.