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Fire Consumes Historic Connecticut Synagogue, Torahs Survive

A fire seriously damaged a historic synagogue in Connecticut on Sunday morning.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 10/16/2012, 12:01 PM

fire (illustrative)
fire (illustrative)
Reuters

A fire seriously damaged a historic synagogue in Connecticut on Sunday morning.

Flames consumed the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont in Milford, Connecticut, at approximately 9:30 Sunday morning. No injuries were reported.

"It's massive destruction. The building will have to be totally redone" congregation president Joel Levitz told The Connecticut Post.

While the synagogue’s two Torah scrolls were damaged, the congregation’s rabbi, Schneur Wilhelm said that he believes they are salvageable. The scrolls were taken to the Chabad of Orange-Woodbridge on Monday, where they were unrolled to dry them out.

"I was told that I should unroll the scrolls while they're still wet -- if I wait, the damage will be far worse," Rabbi Wilhalm said, according to the Connecticut Post. "Parts of them are charred and have really blackened and they might have to replace an entire section. It's really hard to say until a scribe can assess the damage."

While the cause of the fire remains unknown, it is not believed to be arson and officials said they believe the blaze resulted from an electrical problem.

The rabbi said he as encouraged to see "an outpouring of support” from the community. "All sorts of people are helping us out,” he said, according to the local news report.

Synagogue members will be meeting this week to find a place to meet in the short term.

The congregation is Orthodox, but welcomes all families regardless of their views. "We accept everybody," Wilhelm said.

Established in 1926, the synagogue was popular with Jews who vacationed in the Connecticut beachside town because anti-Semitism prevented them from going to more popular spots.

The building appears on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 as one of the Historic Synagogues of Connecticut.

Approximately 30 regular worshipers attend weekly Shabbat services at the Hebrew Congregation, and about 100 attended its High Holidays services this year.