PEABODY, Mass (Aug. 31)
State and local police and fire department officials were investigating today the cause of a synagogue fire here which they believe to be the work of “vandals.” The fire broke out at the Sons of Israel Synagogue here during Selichoth services early yesterday morning.
Allan F. Levy, leader of the Orthodox congregation, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the fire began on the wooden steps at the rear of the synagogue, and spread along the building’s back wall. As soon as the 35 worshipers within detected the blaze, the Torah scrolls were safely removed from the Ark, and the building was quickly evacuated. Firemen succeeded in putting out the blaze before it reached the synagogue’s interior. Mr. Levy said that the extent of damage has still not been estimated and temporary repairs are now under way so that the sanctuary will be ready for the forthcoming High Holy Days services.
Peabody Fire Chief Obrine stressed that he is working on the assumption that the fire was started by vandals because inflammable materials were found near the scene of the conflagration, and no other cause has been discovered. Mr. Levy also told the JTA that he had no idea as to who could have been responsible for the fire, as the Jews of Peabody have always maintained “excellent” relations with the community’s other faiths.