Home > Electrical Fire > CT: Historic Synagogue Destroyed in Electrical Fire

CT: Historic Synagogue Destroyed in Electrical Fire

Milford, CT: Smoke was pouring out Richard Jacobs’ synagogue. A congregant at the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont since his childhood in the 1930s, his family would attend during summers at the beach, and then he again became a regular when he and his wife Cary moved to Milford, Conn., full-time in 1999.

But last Sunday morning, an electrical fire burned everything except the congregation’s precious Torah scrolls. The memorial stained glass windows burst from the heat, and everything in sight was charred. The historic congregation and home of Chabad-Lubavitch of Milford was in ruins.

“It was a very charming place, with a little blue sky above the altar that was painted with stars,” detailed Jacobs. “As soon as we heard the noise, someone said, ‘The synagogue’s on fire,’ and we ran right over there.”

Rabbi Schneur Wilhelm was at home with his family when he got a call from the fire department that the building was on fire. He rushed to the synagogue and showed the firemen where to find the ark so they could rescue its two Torahs.A big expansion had been planned for the synagogue, a wood building built in 1926 that is registered on the National Register of Historic Places. But now, getting the place back in shape is the first order of business, said Jacobs.

“We got them both out, thank G-d, and they are in one piece,” he said. “But we really have to get them over to a scribe before we can determine the extent of the damage.”

People stood outside and watched as the synagogue their parents and grandparents attended went up in flames.

They’re working with the city as they look for a place to regroup while they rebuild, said Joel Levitz, president of the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont/Chabad of Milford. On Wednesday, congregants buried holy books burned in the fire at the BethIsrael Cemetery.“It’s not just a regular fire. Fire is hard, especially when it comes to a synagogue, but with the history of the shul, it makes it so much more difficult,” said Wilhelm.

For the past 11 years, Levitz has been going to the synagogue, which under Wilhelm’s leadership has become a weekly congregation.

“He’s a wonderful rabbi and it’s a welcoming place to pray,” said Levitz. Many tears were shed on Sunday, he added, but the plan is to pick up the pieces and move forward. “That’s our plan, to rebuild.”

Since Sunday, calls have been pouring in from religious leaders and the broader community as people offer their help with the process.

“Everybody wants to do something,” said Levitz.

It’s devastating but not fatal, added Jacobs. “We’re looking to the future. Everyone is rallying around the center, so we know it’s going to be alright.”

Story via chabad.org

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