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September 15, 2019 7:57 pm

Suspect Arrested in Arson Attack That Destroyed Historic Minnesota Synagogue

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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

A suspect has been arrested in an arson attack that almost completely destroyed a Duluth, Minnesota synagogue last week.

City officials announced Sunday that Matthew James Amiot, 36, was arrested last Friday and is being held on charges of first-degree arson, The Duluth News-Tribune reported.

The paper states that the investigation into the fire involved 20 officials from the Duluth police and fire departments, as well as the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which was called in because of the suspicion that the arson was a religiously-motivated hate crime.

The historic Adas Israel Synagogue caught fire in the early morning hours of September 9, and despite efforts by firefighters, was all but destroyed. An assistant fire chief said the building was “almost a complete loss.” The only injury was a firefighter lightly hurt by falling debris. Several Torah scrolls were recovered intact from the synagogue’s basement.

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Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, commented, “We became aware of the arrest heading into Shabbat and will continue working with the Duluth Police Department to inform the Jewish community of the nature of this arrest as the investigation continues.”

Writer Sarah Rose, a descendant of one of the founders of Adas Israel, said arson would be “our worst nightmare.”

“The most terrifying image to any Jew anywhere is a synagogue on fire,” she added. “It is what our nightmares look like.”

“There was no place kinder and more welcoming for Jews than the Upper Midwest,” she said. “The thought this might be intentional and a hate crime is horrifying.”

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