Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, commends law enforcement officials for their swift action in the weekend arrest of a man suspected of burning down an historic synagogue in northern Minnesota last week. We also express our appreciation to the firefighters who risked their lives to extinguish the blaze.
The suspect, a 36-year-old homeless man, faces a charge of first-degree arson for setting fire Sept. 9 to Duluth’s Adas Israel Synagogue, which was founded in 1885 by Lithuanian immigrants and served about 75 families. Firefighters succeeded in rescuing eight of the synagogue’s 14 Torah scrolls. The destruction follows a year of near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in the United States during which the number of anti-Semitic attacks doubled and the deadliest attack against the Jewish community was carried out.
Said Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane:
“We are deeply saddened and disturbed by this terrible attack on the Duluth synagogue and we share the deep pain of the Duluth Jewish community. This fire comes just weeks before we commemorate the first anniversary of the tragic, deadly attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. While this fire may not have been an intentionally anti-Semitic act, such destruction reminds us that we must be ever-vigilant to keep our community safe.”
Said Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament:
“We are extremely grateful to Minnesota law enforcement officials for their urgent actions to arrest the suspect and seek to bring justice to this terrible situation. We are also deeply appreciative of the firefighters who responded so quickly and took extraordinary efforts to save what they could inside the Adas Israel Synagogue. A shul is the heart of any Jewish community, and the pain wrought by this destruction causes all of us great anguish. We will continue to pursue legislation that protects all synagogues and all other houses of faith against such attacks.”