Only on 5: Rabbi speaks about Torah vandalism - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Only on 5: Rabbi speaks about Torah vandalism

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(WMC-TV) – Letters on Memphis rabbi Gil Perl's office table Thursday were among the many he'd received over the last week.

"Just about every day another letter has arrived from somebody expressing their concern, their outrage," said Perl.

Prayer books and other religious items, including a sacred Torah scroll, were vandalized during a recent retreat to a Jackson, Tennessee hotel.

Perl was there with students from Margolin Hebrew Academy in Memphis where he serves as dean.

"It was an awful discovery," said Perl in an exclusive interview with Action News 5.  "It felt like getting punched in the gut over and over again."

24-year-old Justin Baker, who worked as a security guard at the hotel, is accused of defiling the items. 

The Iraqi war veteran waived his right to a preliminary hearing during a court appearance Thursday morning.

"We need to take the opportunity to use it as a moment of strength and as a moment of education and inspiration," said Perl.

Police estimate damage to the religious items exceeds $60,000.

Perl and others have organized a community meeting in response to the vandalism.  It is scheduled for February 11, 2013 at Baron Hirsch Synagogue on South Yates Road.

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