The Oceanside Jewish Center building superintendent was arrested on March 4 and charged with the theft of more than $22,000 worth of silver religious artifacts that were kept with the torahs in the building’s ornamental closet, or ark.
Police officials said that Alexander Membreno, 30, who lived in a home on the synagogue property, at 2860 Brower Ave., took the silver over a period beginning last October and ending with his arrest.
Rabbi Mark Greenspan, the OJC’s religious leader, said that about half of its collection of silver breastplates and Torah handle covers disappeared right after Hurricane Sandy hit the community. “The police told me that they suspected an outsider had committed the crime,” Greenspan said. “Nobody suspected Alexander. He was a very popular man in the synagogue.”
When more of the silver disappeared more recently, however, the Nassau County Police Department’s 4th Squad began focusing its investigation locally, and found many of the articles at a pawn shop on Sunrise Highway in Baldwin. Membreno had used his own identity and driver’s license to pawn the items, police said.
The affair has saddened Rabbi Greenspan. “It’s terrible that you trust somebody who has worked for you for eight years and then find out that they have betrayed you,” he ,said.
Greenspan went to the pawn shop on March 6 and identified most of the articles that had been taken more recently, but he said that they would remain in police custody until after Membreno’s trial. “They are evidence,” he said. “I’m not sure how this works.”
He added that that common sense tells him that if someone walks into a pawn shop with items that are obviously religious in nature and come from a local institution, the pawnbroker should be required to call the police or the institution. Greenspan said he planned to call State Sen. Dean Skelos to ask that such notification be required by law.
Membreno was arraigned in First District Court in Hempstead on multiple charges of grand larceny.