Mayer Simantov, an older cousin of Simantov who was also born in Herat and now lives in Queens, N.Y., said the dispute started in part because his cousin wanted to send the Torah to Israel for safekeeping, but Levy said it wasn't his to send.
At some point, Simantov also encouraged Levy to move to Israel, prompting Levy to accuse him of having designs on the synagogue property, which is in a prime Kabul neighborhood.
As their squabbling intensified, Levy reported his housemate to the Taliban-run government, Mayer Simantov said, accusing him of trying to steal the Torah. The Taliban responded by seizing the holy scroll and jailing both men. Despite extensive efforts, the Torah was never found, the cousin said.
With no sign after the fall of the Taliban that their spat would abate, religious leaders in New York and Israel tried to mediate, but the mudslinging continued. In 2002, Levy told reporters that Simantov was an Israeli spy who had converted to Islam, even as the two continued living in the same run-down building, mostly avoiding each other.
The feud ended only when Levy died in 2005, apparently of diabetes, at age 80. He was eventually buried in Israel.
Simantov said he has few special childhood memories of Rosh Hashanah. His best memory is of the ceremony a year or two after the Taliban fell, when a dozen Jews from various countries joined him in celebration.
"Each brought a bottle of whiskey and I cooked for people from New York, Los Angeles, England, Poland, Germany and Scotland," he said.
"Nowadays, everyone is concerned about the security of Afghanistan. Hardly anyone comes anymore. What can you do?"