Police are crediting media coverage for the quick recovery Tuesday of 13 Torah-related silver items stolen from Congregation Rachel Degel Israel in Kew Gardens Hills.
Efram Sanders, 28, of 69th Road, near the synagogue, was arrested and charged with burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. All but two items were recovered.
A spokesman at Congregation Rachel Degel Israel, located at 144-02 68 Drive, said on Wednesday, “We don’t know who he is,” referring to Sanders.
Police were tipped off by a pawn shop owner who had seen news reports after Sanders allegedly tried to sell the items.
The theft was reported to police on Monday by Rabbi Dovid Sheinfeld, who said the burglary could have occurred anytime between Feb. 18 and 25. The time frame is when the sanctuary is locked and not open to the public. At other times, the congregation meets downstairs.
Items stolen included three Torah crowns, two Torah mini-crowns, three Torah breastplates, four Torah pointers and one chalice. Two of the pointers were not recovered.
Zvi Sporer, who has belonged to the synagogue for more than 30 years, said the estimated value of the items is $15,000, but that the loss is incalculable.
“People donate these objects in memory of someone so they can’t be replaced,” Sporer said.
The synagogue has 150 members and is one of the oldest in the area, dating back to the 1960s.
Sporer said on Tuesday that there was no apparent break-in. “Maybe the rabbi didn’t lock the room or someone found the hidden key,” he added.