Romanian Jewish leaders have filed a criminal complaint for fraud regarding the dismantling of the historic Aron ha Kodesh (Ark) of the synagogue in Siret and its removal to Israel where it is up for auction. They also formally requested that the Moreshet auction house in Jerusalem block the sale, scheduled for Feb. 20.
The Romanian Jewish Federation FEDROM took the actions on Friday, following receipt of a report by art conservators they had sent to Siret, about 450 km north of Bucharest near the Ukrainian border, to examine the replica Ark which had been installed in place of the original.
FEDROM President Aurel Vainer said in a statement:
After FEDROM made emergency checks, also by employing the services of an expert, it results there are differences between the original Aron Kodesh and the one currently existing in the Siret Synagogue. Specifically, the expert said that “it can be argued that the piece currently present the Synagogue is a different piece from the original one.” Following these first steps, on Friday, February 15, FEDROM filed a criminal complaint with the police precinct in the town of Siret.
A further statement said it was a complaint for fraud.
In addition Vainer said that “Depending on the progress of the inquiries, the relevant Israeli authorities, under the law, will be notified to begin such a criminal investigation on the territory of the State of Israel.”
In their report, the conservators said the ark currently in place was constructed
in a contemporary technique, rather deficient, both technically and aesthetically. […] Pursuant to the evaluation of the actual Aron Kodesh existing in the Great Temple of Siret, as well as to the comparison with the piece that was in place before the restoration, based on the photographic documentation provided by FCER-CM, it can be concluded that the actual piece is different from the original piece ,thus it could be called, with great indulgence, a replica.
Vainer’s statement said the original ark had been removed in 2016 (the conservators’ report said about three years ago), supposedly for restoration, and the copy had been returned in its place.
The conservators’ report said the supposed restoration had ostensibly been mandated
given its poor conservation status, especially the fragility of the wooden matter, due to the xylophage insect attack. The Aron Kodesh in its actual shape, was brought in after that “restoration”
Here is the full English text of the FEDROM statement: