Suspect arrested in Jersey City synagogue break-in; Torahs recovered

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (WABC) -- Police have arrested a suspect after two Torahs and other religious items worth tens of thousands of dollars were stolen from a synagogue during two burglaries over the past two weeks.

On Tuesday morning, an employee at the Congregation B'nai Jacob on Westside Avenue in Jersey City came into work to find an office had been broken into.

A file cabinet in the office was damaged, and silver religious pieces valued at $50,000 were missing from a safe. Two Torahs, valued at $30,000, were also gone.

Jersey City police arrested 39-year-old Thomas Dobles Wednesday and were able to recover the two stolen Torahs, but it remains an active police investigation to find the other stolen items.

Members of the congregation say it isn't about material items and dollar signs, but about violating a holy space. And the items that were taken were truly priceless.

"We were all shocked," Congregation B'nai Jacob co-president Andy Siegel said. "We've all been planning for our holiday services."

Rabbi Aaron Katz said the first break-in was at an upstairs apartment and that two air conditioners, a new refrigerator and a TV were taken. He believes the same person targeted the office petty cash and the Torahs during the second incident.

"This is a 60-year-old congregation, and every one of these things was donated by families in the community," Siegel said. "So it's part of our legacy."

For nearly 60 years the Congregation B'nai Jacob has been a staple in Jersey City, serving the community and opening their doors to people of all walks of life.

So when the two Torahs and several other silver religious pieces were recently stolen from the synagogue, members say they were devastated.

"We understood that we're missing two Torah, the big Torah, the Bible, two of them. They're very old, they're a donation from families, it's history," said Rabbi Katz.

Rabbi Katz says whoever broke in knew the alarm code and number to their safe, and that they were working closely with police.

With the help of surveillance video police have since arrested Dobles, who worked as a caretaker at the synagogue, and charged him with burglary and theft.

But several priceless items remain missing.

"Because they're just connected to our almost 60 year history here, it's just so awful to think that some of it's gone and hopefully they'll find it," said former co-president and congregation founder Jane Canter. null
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