• T. Blair

117 Year Old Synagogue Destroyed in Early Morning Fire

Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth, MN suffered devastating damage in a fire 9/9/19. The exact cause and a possible motive are still unknown at this time.


9/9/19 Adas Israel Congregation - image: fox9.com

9/9/19 Duluth, MN - Early Monday morning, a fire completely destroyed 117 year old Adas Israel Congregation, an early 20th century synagogue in downtown Duluth, MN. It burned for hours while firefighters worked to put out the flames. No one was inside when they arrived. Duluth police, fire and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are currently investigating.


Fire investigators have yet to give an indication of how the blaze began. According to a statement made by Assistant Fire Chief Brent Consie, the first firefighters on the scene spotted a storage room on the east side of the synagogue engulfed in flames. The Star Tribune reported that Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said "Buildings typically do not start on fire for no reason." Police have spoken to a couple people of interest in connection with the fire. Chief Tusken went on to say, "We have an idea, but we don't have enough facts right now for us to be absolutely sure what happened. " No suspects have been named at this time. Duluth News Tribune reported that Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said there was "no sign of an accelerant". Both Krizaj and Tusken said they weren't ready to comment on where the fire originated. "At this point, we're really boots on the ground at the scene," Chief Tusken said. "There's only one opportunity to do this investigation and do it well."


According to Fox 9, one firefighter was struck by falling debris and had to be rescued from a balcony. He was sent to St. Luke's hospital for treatment and later released. No other injuries were reported. Remaining crews were ordered to exit the building just prior to a portion of the roof collapsing. Firefighters had to fight the fire strictly from outside at that point. Unfortunately, the building was a total loss.


image: Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Mid-Monday morning, temple leadership guided Duluth firefighters to recover the congregation's Torah which was located in an ark on a wall in the mostly brick basement. The five scrolls of the Hebrew Scripture were handwritten on parchment. Firefighters wrapped the scrolls individually in black plastic bags to protect them and carefully handed them to congregation members. They were able to recover several other irreplaceable pieces as well.


image: Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Steve Hunegs, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, issued the following statement regarding the fire at Duluth’s historic Adas Israel Congregation:


“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas is deeply saddened by the devastating fire that appears to have destroyed much of the historic Adas Israel Congregation in downtown Duluth. The Congregation dates back to the late 1800s and the building’s cornerstone was laid in 1901."


The aftermath of the fire that destroyed Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth, MN 9/9/19

images: Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com