No Cause Known for Adas Israel Fire, Police Chief Not Ruling Out Arson

Police and Fire Chief updated the public in a press conference on Monday.

DULUTH, Minn.- The charred remains are all that stands of the historic Adas Israel Synagogue in Duluth.

At a press conference at City Hall, officials said while it is early in the investigation, arson has not been ruled out, and they are interviewing people of interest.

“We have today interviewed a couple of people of interest and we will see further what the fruits of those interviews were,” said Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken.

“I saw actually quite a glow in the sky, I saw entire fire, flames shooting across Third Street.”

Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj described the scene he arrived to, as the fire burned since 2:30 am Monday morning.

“It grew really quickly,” Chief Krizaj said. “They didn’t actually put out the fire initially they went defensive, pull some people out of the building.”

Flames engulfed the synagogue immediately damaging the building beyond repair. One firefighter was injured in the response, he has since been treated and released from the hospital.

“We haven’t had a fire this big in a while,” said the Fire Chief.

Third Street was closed off to traffic for a period of the day as crews stabilized the building. The road re-opened later in the evening.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives is aiding the investigation into the cause of the fire.

“I have reason to believe that buildings typically do not start on fire for no reason,” Chief Tusken said. “We have an idea but we don’t have enough facts right now for it to be, for us to be absolutely sure what happened.”

Also at the press conference was a member of the Adas Israel congregation, who said the entire community is reeling.

“Everyone is devastated,” said Adas Israel Board Member Mike Baddin. “People that have never set foot in the building but know the building as a community landmark are devastated.”

The destruction of the synagogue couldn’t come at a worse time, as important Jewish holy days are right around the corner.

“We’re really devastated especially this time of year our high holy days are coming up at the end of September early October,” Baddin said. “So we have no place to congregate right now.”

Now other Jewish temples, like Temple Israel on East Second Street and Chabad of Duluth are offering their spaces for the congregation to worship and celebrate the holidays.

“We are gonna open our doors for them in any capacity whether they need a place to worship or just a shoulder to cry on in any capacity we are here and we’re gonna help,” said Rabbi Mendy Ross of Chabad of Duluth.

Despite the support, nothing can erase the fact that an important part of Jewish culture, and the history of the area, is now lost.

“I’m probably a 3rd or 4th generation member of this congregation,” Baddin said, “and I’m, if any of my parents or grandparents had been alive when this happened it would’ve just killed them, they were much more tied to the congregation.”

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