Devilish deception! Brothers dress up as Orthodox Jews to swipe silver synagogue shawls, cops say

The Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin orthodox synagogue in Midwood recently changed its alcohol policy to deal with the “shul-hopping” youth that were crashing parties there — and ending up in the hospital.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Two thieves accused of swiping silver-laden prayer shawls from a handful of Midwood synagogues were fitted for another accessory last week — a pair of NYPD-issued steel handcuffs.

Civic leaders are cheering the arrest of brothers Solomon and Samuel Grun, who allegedly masqueraded as Orthodox Jews and swiped the prayer shawls, menorahs, and other sacred articles from at least three shuls since June 27, according to court documents.

“This was a situation that was intolerable and demanded swift action,” said Boruch Moskovitz, the executive coordinator of the Flatbush Shomrim, a volunteer security force that helped police track down and arrest the two suspected thieves. “This should be a lesson to all who would prey on our community and its sense of decency.”

The Grun brothers were taken into custody on July 5 — less than a week after their last theft, according to officials. They were charged with raiding three synagogues, but may be connected to four similar thefts that stretch back to early June, sources say.

The stolen garments, known as ataras, were easy pickings for the Grun brothers since congregants would leave the shawls, which are often passed down through the generations, in an unsecured part of the synagogue. The ataras, some of which have hundreds of dollars in silver woven in them, are only put on during times of prayer, congregants said.

Investigators say that Solomon, 19, and Samuel, 21, would dress up as Orthodox Jews and yeshiva students so they wouldn’t be stopped and questioned when they entered the houses of worship they were targeting.

Sources who work closely with the police said the Grun brothers stole the silver garments to fuel their drug habit. Both men have lengthy arrest records for narcotics possession and assault, as well as a previous silver theft, according to a spokesman for DA Charles Hynes.

But the Grun brothers’ success was their own undoing. They had already hit three times when word of the Atara theft spree, which was reported in the Brooklyn Daily, encouraged neighborhood synagogues to beef up their security.

When one of the thefts was caught on a synagogue’s surveillance camera, three police precincts collaborated with the Flatbush Shomrim to track down and arrest the two men.

Victims of the Atara thefts expected the state of vigilance inside their houses of worship to relax now that the Gruns are in custody.

“This is not a common occurrence,” said Izzy Kirzner, who had his shawl stolen from a synagogue on Avenue L. “It’s not going to change the whole process of the synagogue and how people go about their daily lives. It’s one of those things you live with and hopefully it won’t happen again.”

Attempts to reach the Gruns’ attorney were unsuccessful by Friday evening.

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