Officials: Robbery motives unclear

Religious items stolen at Jewish Hillel House

No price can be put on a person’s security or freedom of religion. But late last month, the Hillel House encountered a problem with both.

The Hillel House, a house used as a study home for Jewish college students in Carbondale, was robbed March 19. Since then, the house has taken precautions to prevent another crime from happening.

The SIU chapter is a part of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, an organization that provides opportunities for Jewish students at more than 500 colleges and universities to explore and celebrate Jewish identity.

Moriah Bradley, a graduate student in social arts from Skokie, said the motive of the crime is still unknown and it is unclear if it was a direct attack on the Jewish community in Carbondale. She has been the director of the Hillel House for a year and a half.

Along with minor electronics, the Hillel House had its Torah, the Jewish holy book containing the first five books of Jewish faith according to Moses, stolen.

Bradley said the Torah is very important to the Jewish community, not only because of its religious value, but because each Torah is hand-written on parchment in Hebrew and takes years to create. She said each Torah costs around $3,000.

She said the house will consider options to obtain a new Torah should the stolen one never be found, but it could never replace the first book.

The Hillel House has been working with police to strengthen security at the house, and there are plans to have new security ready for the fall semester, Bradley said.

She said the Jewish community of Carbondale has been emotionally supportive of the Hillel House and has helped set up meetings with Carbondale police.

The house is still open and operating as usual, she said.

According to police, the theft occurred sometime between 5 p.m. March 8 and 10 a.m. March 19 at the Hillel House. A $500 award is being offered for the Torah’s return, in addition to a Crime Stoppers reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

Lt. Stan Reno, an officer of the Carbondale Police Department, said the investigation is ongoing.

Reno said officers are still seeking information about the theft and working on the case. He declined to comment on possible suspects because of the status of the investigation.

The stolen Torah has also upset members of the Jewish community at SIUC.

Joshua Shapiro, a freshman from Grey’s Lake studying communications, said the act has infuriated him. Shapiro said he thinks the Torah was stolen as a direct attack on the Jewish community. He said he thinks the Torah wasn’t stolen by chance, and the thief must have had a direct motivation behind it.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Carbondale Police Department or Crime Stoppers. Anonymous tips can be made at the Carbondale Police Department’s website.


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