Romanian Jewish leaders have filed a criminal complaint for fraud regarding the dismantling of the historic Aron haKodesh (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 February 20.

The Federation of Jewish communities of Romania (FCER), the country’s EJC affiliate, decided to take action, after receiving 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.

FCER President Aurel Vainer said in a statement: “After FCER 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, FCER filed a criminal complaint with the police precinct in the town of Siret.”

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.”

Vainer’s statement and the conservators’ report said the original ark had been removed in 2016, supposedly for restoration, and the copy had been returned in its place.