NEW YORK (Aug. 2)
After their small synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn. was destroyed by an explosion of unconfirmed origin last Friday night, congregants rummaged through the ruins Saturday morning collecting undamaged prayer books and the two Torahs and conducted Shabat services as usual, on the porch of the house next door, Rabbi Meir Stimler of the Beth Shalom Synagogue told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a phone interview.
Jewish leaders there have told the JTA that they believe the explosion was caused by a bomb because wires were found leading from the synagogue to a motel 100 yards away. However, local police and federal agents investigating the origin of the explosion have declined to confirm it was a bombing until they get the results from laboratory tests.
Stimler clarified an earlier report from Steven Drysdale, executive director of the Chattanooga Jewish Welfare Federation, that suggested that the lives of the congregants of the Friday evening Shabat services were saved because they left the synagogue early, being two people short of a minyan.
Stimler said the congregation had finished services and had left the building by 8 p.m., which is always the case with or without a minyan. The bombing reportedly occurred at about 8:50 p.m.
All that remained standing of the 55-family Orthodox synagogue, a one-story converted house, was part of the roof over the women’s section and the ark, where the Torahs are kept. Stimler, who lives in the house next door to the synagogue where services were held Saturday morning, said the synagogue would be rebuilt, but as yet, there are no estimates of the damages.