Rabbi Mendy Aboutboul of the Edmond J. Safra Ipanema Synagogue in Rio inspects the sefer haftarah scoll found by police in a local shantytown, May 28, 2018. (Courtesy of Edmond J. Safra Ipanema Synagogue)
RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — A Jewish ritual object that initially was believed to be a Torah scroll was seized from criminals during a police raid of a Rio slum.
Jewish representatives were called Monday to identify the object, which was determined to be a sefer haftarah, or readings from the books of the prophets that are read on Shabbat following the Torah reading. It was found last Friday at a drug dealer’s bunker in the Parada de Lucas shantytown amid a stash of ammunition “that could shoot down a helicopter,” the Extra newspaper reported.
“This is not a Torah,” Rabbi Mendy Aboutboul of the Edmond J. Safra Ipanema Synagogue said. “We have found the signature of a Rabbi David Basri, a great Sephardi spiritual leader of the Sucat David community in Jerusalem. Usually this type of sefer was given as a gift to large community donors.”
The ornately boxed scroll was found among some 1,000 bullets — including 350 powerful .30 caliber ones — at a basement hidden under a secret passageway between two shacks revealed when some 20 police officers raided the slum in an armored tank.
“Taking into consideration the religious content of the object seized during the raid, it will be sent to specialists for a descriptive criminal investigation with the proper care that a holy book deserves, and then it will be returned to the Jewish community to keep in its custody,” said Rachel Glatt, legal representative of the Rio Jewish federation.
Rio is home to some 30,000 Jews, who experience one of the world’s highest urban violence rates and increased risk from stray bullets from criminals and police.
In 2017, Brazil saw a record high in the number of immigrants to Israel since 1948. Most of the nearly 700 people left Latin America’s largest country seeking a better quality of life.