(JTA) — A massive fire gutted a synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa, burning seven Torah scrolls.
No one was injured in the blaze Tuesday night at Beit Midrash Morasha, also known as Arthur’s Road Shul, in Sea Point.
The cause has yet to be determined. While some speculated that the fire was sparked by Hanukkah candles, the fire team told synagogue officials that it started in the roof. Investigators told the South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies that they have not found any signs of foul play.
“Tears streaming down the faces of witnesses as they formed a human chain to try and save religious books from the burning shul. 7 Torahs destroyed. Later the shul Rabbi recited Kaddish,” the Yeshiva World News reported.
Four fire engines, 22 firefighters, an aerial vehicle and rescue personnel responded to the fire, according to local news reports.
“The City of Cape Town fire and rescue services need to be thanked for their bravery as they battle this blaze,” the Board of Deputies said in a statement late Tuesday night. “We know that every effort is being made to save any holy books and religious articles.”
In a statement, South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein wrote: “Friends, we mourn the physical sifrei Torah that were so tragically burnt last night, but let us take solace in the fact that, thank G-d, no human life was injured, and recognize that the letters of the Torah, the ideas contained within them, and the holy service of the Morasha community will continue and never be destroyed.”