A security system installed at Temple Emanu-El last year through a federal Homeland Security grant has provided a lead to capturing the thief who stole a tzedaka box filled with donations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
The Nov. 17 theft of the box from the lobby during a sisterhood rummage sale was captured on tape, which shows a fairly clear image of the male intruder’s face. The tape also revealed that he seemed to know exactly what he was looking for as he walked in the front door of the Edison synagogue and headed right for the box. No one in the congregation recognized the thief, and a copy of the tape has been turned over to the Edison police who are investigating.
“We were really sad and upset that someone would have taken something that was to be used to help other people,” synagogue copresident Sharon Ratiner told NJJN. “We also feel badly that if this person truly needed assistance, that he didn’t just come and talk to us. We often help people with cards to supermarkets or through our food pantry. We would have tried to help.”
Ratiner said the congregation was unsure of how much was in the tzedaka box, but estimated it was at least several hundred dollars in cash and checks.
She said the box, which has sat in the lobby for many years without incident, is used to collect donations for various causes. However, the robbery has forced the temple to bolt its new tzedaka box to a table and designate an individual to keep an eye on the lobby whenever a “high traffic” event is held.
Additionally, the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County sent a warning to other synagogues and institutions that collect such donations, along with suggestions for increasing security.
“This has just been a really sad experience for us,” said Ratiner.