New York - From Chicago To Newark To Facebook: A Stolen Tallis Returned, Thanks To Social Media
New York - It was Facebook to the rescue once again as a Chicago man was reunited with his stolen tallis thanks to social media.
Michael Levitian of Delray Beach, Florida was in Newark on business this past Wednesday when a man approached him and began discussing conspiracy theories about 9/11.
“I was on the streets in a bad part of Newark when someone who looked basically like a bum came to me and asked me for money,” Levitian told VIN News. “He told me how someone had bombed New York on September 11th and how the Jews never came. I told him I had heard all the theories and I sent him away.”
But half an hour later the man was back, this time holding a velvet bag.
“He said to me, ‘Do you want this?’” said Levitian. “To my full amazement he showed me what was obviously a very expensive tallis bag. I asked him where he had stolen it from, but he told me that he had hadn’t stolen it, that he had been working in New York and someone had left it and that he hadn’t stolen it.”
While Levitian, who came to the United States from Russia in 1989, said that he never buys stolen merchandise, he felt compelled to rescue the tallis.
“What kind of Jew would I be if I didn’t?” said Levitian. “He asked me for $50 which is probably more money than he ever saw in his life.”
The two negotiated a price, with Levitian handing over just $8 for the embroidered tallis bag, wondering what he should be doing with the obviously stolen merchandise.
“I had no clue what to do with it,” said Levitian. “There was no way I could use it. How could you put on a tallis knowing it was stolen? Every time you put it on, you would know that the loss of this item brought a great feeling of sorrow to someone else.”
Returning to his car, Levitian opened the tallis bag and saw that the tallis was adorned with an elaborate silver atara.
“Thank G-d he didn’t know the value of what he had,” said Levitian.
Levitian called his daughter, Liat, in San Francisco and asked her if she had any suggestions what to do with the tallis.
“She told me to go to the next synagogue,” said Levitian. “I told her, do you realize where I am? There is no synagogue.
Levitian returned home at approximately 5 PM and contacted the NYPD, hoping that perhaps they could help him return the tallis, but was told that they could not be of assistance. Not knowing what else to do, Levitian took a picture of the tallis bag and his daughter, who reads Hebrew, was able to identify the owner of the tallis as Meyer Emanuel.
The two decided that the best course of action would be to get word out about the stolen tallis on the internet in the hopes that who knew Emanuel would see the picture. Leviatian posted the story of the stolen tallis on Facebook at 7:30 PM and within three hours, he had been contacted by Meyer Emanuel of Chicago, who had lost his tallis on a flight to New Jersey on the morning of September 3rd.
“The geography of this story is amusing,” said Levitian. “I am from Delray Beach, Florida. I came to New Jersey. My daughter is in San Francisco, she contacted someone in Australia and we found the owner in Chicago, Illinois, in about three hours. This is our new virtual reality that something like this can happen in just three hours.”
For Emanuel, getting his tallis back was a wonderful surprise. The 30 year old and his wife were flying to Newark for a friend’s wedding when their flight arrangements changed unexpectedly.
“The airline messed up and we couldn’t get on our flight so they put us on a different flight,” said Emanuel. “We were supposed to be on a 9:18 flight but they put us on an 11:43 flight. Our luggage got to Newark three hours before we did.”
While the Emanuels were able to locate the bag with their hanging clothing in baggage claim, their large suitcase, carrying the bulk of their belongings, was missing. Tracking the lost suitcase turned out to be a time consuming process since the couple’s original ticket had been with United Airlines, but they had been moved to an American Airlines flight.
“It may have been United who lost the luggage but it is the airline that flies you that is actually responsible,” explained Emanuel.
While the suitcase contained a significant amount of clothing and other items, the Emanuels consoled themselves with the knowledge that almost of the missing items were easily replaceable, with one notable exception. While Emanuel had packed his tefillin in his carry on bag, his tallis had been in the suitcase.
“The tallis was given to me by my wife’s grandfather who since passed away,” said Emanuel. “That was the only thing that we couldn’t replace.”
Adding insult to injury, the Emanuels went to a nearby mall to replace their missing items, but later that night they were notified by the credit card company that their cards had been cancelled.
“They saw all these charges being made in New Jersey and assumed that the cards had been stolen,” said Emanuel.
Emanuel was shocked to see his tallis appearing on Facebook thirteen days after its disappearance, and as of this writing, Levitian’s post had been shared over 750 times and had appeared on Tracing the Tribe, a Jewish genealogy page on Facebook. Emanuel and Levitian spoke on the phone and coordinated return arrangements for the tallis, which was mailed to Chicago on Friday afternoon. Both men were overjoyed by the unusual turn of events that brought the tallis back to its rightful owner.
“It was such hashgacha pratis that the person who had the tallis approached someone who was Jewish,” said Emanuel. “This was almost two weeks later, we thought it was long gone.”
“You wouldn’t believe how happy I am to have found him,” Levitian said. “If not this would have always been an unresolved issue and I would always know that the tallis was apart from its owner. I know that every single time that Meyer puts on his tallis he will remember the wonderful story and the joy of having gotten his tallis back.”
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