LAKEWOOD — A reward is being offered for the safe return of a Torah valued at $70,000, stolen from an Ocean County temple.

Lakewood Police spokesman Lt. Gregory Staffordsmith said two men entered the Cheder Torah Zev school on West Cross Street in Lakewood through an unlocked door early Saturday morning and stole a safe containing the sacred scroll.

"The Torah scroll is actually the most sacred of all religious items, and is treated with utmost respect. There are a tremendous amount of religious laws pertaining to the handling of the scroll. In fact, it it were to fall on the ground, it is customary for the congregants of the Shul (synagogue) present to fast and/or give charity," Lakewood Scoop editor Eli Hassenfeld told New Jersey 101.5.

The Scoop itself offered a $2,000 reward for the safe return of the Torah. An anonymous donor brought the reward to $5,000, Hassenfeld said.

Staffordsmith and Hassenfeld said the thieves may have stolen the safe thinking there was cash inside.

"Realizing what their thought process may have been, I and my team decided to offer the tempting reward as a chance for them to return the holy item perhaps by sending in a friend, or claiming they happened to have found it to avoid having this item thrown out," Hassenfeld said.

Staffordsmith said that Detective Crag Fink and the Ocean County Sheriff's Department CSI unit have recovered evidence including video showing the suspects in the school.

Staffordsmith asked anyone with information about the Torah's to contact Lakewood Police at 732-363-0200.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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