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Arson Cause of Fire That Guts Bronx Synagogue and Destroys Five Torah Scrolls

January 22, 1970
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Five Torah scrolls from a burned-out synagogue in the Bronx will be ceremonially buried when the gravediggers strike here ends, or sooner if special arrangements can be made. Meanwhile, services this weekend will be in the basement of the synagogue. The fire, at Congregation Ahavath Torah on Monday night, was termed arson by the City Fire Marshall’s office. The Torah scrolls were valued at more than $2000 each. In addition, other religious articles and the living quarters of Rabbi David Toiv were damaged. The fire is being further investigated.

Mayor John V. Lindsay expressed “shock and outrage” and said that he has asked the City’s Police Commissioner to take “extra measures” to capture the arsonists. Investigators summoned by the fire chief reported evidence of forced entry into the two-story brick building that houses the synagogue and the living quarters of Rabbi Toiv.

Fire marshals said the flames apparently began near the pulpit where the Torahs are stored and spread through the building. Rabbi Toiv and several members of the congregation who were in the synagogue when the fire was discovered, escaped without injury. But the rabbi was made homeless by the fire which destroyed the electric and heating utilities in his second floor apartment. The fire was the latest in a series of suspicious blazes in New York synagogues and Hebrew schools. They reached a peak in 1968 as a result of racial tensions generated by the New York City teachers strike. Rabbi Toiv said his synagogue had been at its present location for 15 years and endured no vandalism other than an occasional broken window. But he blamed Monday’s fire on vandals.

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