Rabbi returns $100,000 found in desk to owner

Rabbi Noah Muroff

OTTAWA — The world is thirsting for a good-news story and Rabbi Noah Muroff has quenched that thirst. The international media descended upon the young rabbi once word of his exciting discovery of nearly $100,000 in a second-hand desk – and his subsequent and immediate decision to return the cash to its rightful owner — “went viral” on the Internet.

Rabbi Muroff, a native of Ottawa, has been living and teaching high school in a small yeshiva in New Haven, Conn. Shortly before Rosh Hashanah, he and his wife, Esther, picked up a desk they had purchased on Craigslist and brought it home to use in his study. They ran into trouble when they tried to get the desk through the door. “It missed being able to pass through the door by a quarter of an inch,” Rabbi Muroff said.

Unwilling to admit defeat, the couple decided to take the desk apart and re-assemble it on the other side of the door. After removing the drawers, they found a plastic bag containing cash – in fact, to their astonishment, the total came to $98,000.

Because the woman who sold him the desk had told Rabbi Muroff that she purchased it from Staples and assembled it herself, he knew that the money belonged to her. He and his wife called her without a moment’s hesitation and arranged to return the money to her as soon as possible.

The grateful woman explained that the money had been an inheritance from her recently deceased parents, which she had put in the drawer in the midst of her emotional distress. When she didn’t see the money in the drawer, she assumed she had simply misplaced it and would find it elsewhere in her home.

The rabbi’s parents, Faigy and Zachary Muroff, are extremely proud of their son, though not surprised by his actions.

“He didn't want to tell anyone about this, but was encouraged to go public to present a positive image of Judaism and for tikkun olam,” said Faigy. “We feel so blessed that he was given the opportunity to do this.”

The repercussions of Rabbi Muroff's actions have been – and continue to be – far reaching. “To me, the most important thing about the story is the unbelievable impact this story is having on people around the world. People are talking about it everywhere,” Zachary said.

Besides being interviewed and featured on Fox TV, BBC, most major Canadian and U.S. networks, on radio and in print and especially on the Internet, Rabbi Muroff is the topic of conversation in schools and among friends and neighbours.

 “We have had calls from Hillel Academy teachers in Ottawa saying that they remember Noah and his ever-ready smile, and that they are using his story as a discussion point in their classes,” Faigy said.

The former student of Hillel Academy, Yitzhak Rabin High School and Ottawa Torah Institute (OTI) credits his upbringing for his values.

“I am so appreciative of my upbringing in Ottawa, from my parents and from my rabbis… and grateful for the opportunity I have been given,” Rabbi Muroff said.

On a lighter note, representatives of Staples, grateful for the publicity, have approached Rabbi Muroff and offered to provide him with supplies for his new desk. As well, he will be receiving a year’s supply of tea from a company called Honest Tea, which felt his actions perfectly illustrate its brand.