Search continues for 2 Torahs stolen from Long Island synagogue

LONG BEACH, Long Island (WABC) -- Police continue to search for two Torahs that went missing from the Chabad of Beaches at Beth-El on Long Island more than two weeks after the beloved items were stolen.

Nassau police divers waded through the shoreline of Long Beach to see if the Torahs somehow got stuck in the water or the sand, but their efforts came up frustratingly empty handed.

"We're hoping to, on the Jewish holiday, give a little hope," Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. "So we're out there looking for pieces of the Torah that were stolen from the temple. We don't know if we're going to be successful. It's a good way to exercise and practice what we normally do. But we're hoping to go out there and find something. And if we can, we'll bring that back again to the synagogue so at least the congregants of the synagogue know we're giving everything we can."

Authorities say 23-year-old Hunter McElrath stole the Torahs on August 21 and also allegedly vandalized the synagogue.

"When I turned on the lights, I noticed the ark. It was ripped open. Doors broken, there were Torahs on the floor," Rabbi Eli Goodman said.

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McElrath was hospitalized with psychiatric issues, and he remains under observation.

Ever since, large search groups of people from the Jewish community from throughout Long Island have been looking for the Torahs.

"It's like an heirloom, very special," Rabbi Goodman said. "Can never be replaced."

Last week, members of the synagogue held a ritual to return nine Torahs to the ark.

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"We have a little bit of mercy on such a person, but at the same time, we want to have our Torahs back," Rabbi Goodman said.

The synagogue is offering a reward for the return of the Torahs.

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