Thursday, June 04, 2020

(JNS) Firefighters managed to salvage Torah scrolls from a 120-year-old synagogue in Duluth, Minnesota, before an overnight fire this week that started in a storage room wound up destroying the building.

Leaders of Adas Israel Congregation, Duluth’s oldest-surviving Modern Orthodox Jewish synagogue, guided firefighters as they removed artifacts from the basement of the synagogue, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

At a news conference it was reported that no accelerants were found at the scene. An investigation is underway.

It was also reported that eight of the synagogue’s 14 Torahs were saved, although board member Mike Baddin later said there was some ambiguity about the number. He said he placed half of the scrolls in storage and half in someone else’s home.

Firefighters carried the scrolls out in plastic containers to protect them from water, said Baddin, adding, “The miracle was that they were found intact. Everything else there was wet, and they were in a cabinet, and the cabinet apparently was sealed on the top.”

Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Brent Consie said the synagogue’s structure was “pretty much a total loss” following the fire, and officials have not confirmed what caused the blaze. Two “people of interest” were interviewed, according to Police Chief Mike Tusken, though are not being considered suspects. He also said there was no indication that an explosion had occurred at the synagogue.