A fire that burned down a three month old San Jose, California Chabad house that was initially thought to be an accident may turn out to have been a targeted hate crime, the Jewish Journal reported.
The center was destroyed by a fire on December 22. By the time the fire had been put out, every room in the building was charred, even the attic was destroyed.
Three days later, the remains of the building was vandalized, with items that had not been incinerated in the fire stolen, according to Rabbi Mendel Weinfeld of Chabad House-Almaden Valley.
Fire investigators at first concluded that the first was not an antisemitic hate crime. However, with the vandalism a few days later, the cause of the fire remains unclear and points to the Chabad house possibly being targeted, Rabbi Weinfeld said.
The investigation is still in process.
The rabbi told the Jewish Journal that a security camera captured a man starting the fire at 1 a.m. on December 22 in the building’s carport. He leaves a half hour later and ten minutes after that a second man attempts to put out the fire with a water bottle and then he too leaves. But the fire was not out completely and a few minutes later it began to burn the building. The fire was not extinguished until 7 a.m.
While the fire destroyed every room in the building, the synagogue’s Torah scrolls were saved thanks to the quick thinking of one of their members.
Rabbi Weinfeld said that Jacob Cohen hurried to the scene of the fire, explaining to the firefighters that the Torah scrolls needed to be saved.
“The Torahs have a terrible smell on them, but they’ll recover,” Rabbi Weinfeld said.