Shul in Moscow is Destroyed by a Fire of Unknown Origins

The Marina Roscha synagogue in Moscow, an institution run for decades by the Chabad movement of Lubavitcher Chasidim, has been totally destroyed by a fire of unknown origins.

But the Holy Ark and Torah scrolls were left intact, the synagogue’s rabbi reported by telephone from Moscow.

Rabbi Berel Lazar declared the destruction of the wooden synagogue as “total besides a few miracles here and there. I mean, the main miracle is that the sifrei kodesh (sacred books) and Torahs are completely untouched.”

He said there were about 30 fire engines and “hundreds of firefighters” trying to extinguish the blaze, which began around 3 a.m. Moscow time Thursday.

There was some speculation that the blaze could have been caused by an electrical problem. The Moscow Fire Department and police said it was impossible to determine the cause of the blaze at this time, Lazar said.

“By the time I got there, the flame was all around the building. In my life I never saw such kind of fire,” he said.

He said people came from all around and stood in sadness and shock staring at the devastation.

The rabbi strongly credited the firefighters for their efforts over four hours of hard work but said it was obviously a lost cause from the beginning.

“We offered the fire people a lot of money to try to save the Torahs and they said, ‘You can give us a million dollars and we wouldn’t go in there. It would be too late.’

“Somehow that part of the building was not damaged,” said Lazar, who believes it was a sign from God.

Other than that, he said, “part of the building is ashes, part is completely chaos.” Most of the religious books were burnt, except for those by the Ark.

Lazar said Moscow government officials have been very accommodating about the problem of rebuilding, offering to cut through bureaucratic red tape to permit reconstruction to start immediately.

“There was nobody, thank God, in the building” when the fire broke out, the rabbi said. “There were some people sleeping in some trailers,” he said of the mobile vans outside, which accommodate visitors from out of town.

The synagogue, built in 1926, is believed to be the only Jewish sanctuary in Russia built after the Russian Revolution.

“Every Chasid who came out of Russia came out of that shul,” Lazar said.

He said the congregants, many of them old and veterans of the synagogue, determined they would go on praying there no matter what. “The old, the young, everyone said we would have a minyan this Shabbes,” he said.

Lazar appealed to world Jewry for help in rebuilding. “Especially the people who visited this shul realize its importance and should help us put it back up,” he said.

REMINDER: The JTA Daily News Bulletin will not be published Monday, Jan. 3.

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