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September 9, 2019 12:26 pm

Century-Old Duluth Synagogue Destroyed by Fire, Cause Unknown

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The remains of the Adas Israel synagogue in Duluth Minnesota, after it was destroyed by a fire, Sept. 9, 2019. Photo: Screenshot.

A fire has destroyed a century-old synagogue in Duluth, Minnesota. The cause is unknown.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Adas Israel synagogue caught fire in the early hours of Monday morning and was almost completely destroyed within four hours. No one was in the building at the time.

Assistant Fire Chief Brent Consie said that the building was “almost a complete loss.”

One firefighter was injured by falling debris on the synagogue’s balcony. He has been treated and released from hospital.

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A synagogue vice president, David Sher, said he rushed to the scene to save the congregation’s Torah scrolls, but the fire had already spread to the point that he could not do so.

The scrolls were stored in the synagogue’s basement, and may have survived the blaze, but it will be impossible to know until the site is declared safe, which will take some time.

“We’ll have to see what’s going on in the basement to see if they are there,” Sher said.

Sher, who is in his 70s, has been a member of the synagogue all his life and said of the fire, “It feels like one of your family members passed away.”

Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas Steve Hunegs said, “As we approach the Jewish High Holy Days, we offer our full support to our fellow Jewish Duluthians. The Minneapolis and St. Paul Jewish federations are working to establish an emergency fund to support the needs of Adas Israel Congregation.”

Adas Israel is an Orthodox-Conservative congregation. The synagogue itself was over a hundred years old, with construction being completed in 1902.

Duluth has only one other synagogue.

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