South African synagogue goes up in flames
Seven Torah scrolls destroyed as fire devastates Orthodox synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa.
An Orthodox synagogue in South Africa was destroyed in a fire late Tuesday night, synagogue officials reported.
The fire broke out at around 11:00 p.m. local time Tuesday night in the Beit Midrash Morasha synagogue in Sea Point, Cape Town, known by locals as the ‘Arthur’s Road Shul’.
Local fire officials said 4 fire engines and 22 firefighters were dispatched to contain the fire.
No injuries were reported in the blaze.
“Just before 23:00, Fire and Rescue responded to a synagogue that was alight in Arthur’s Road, Sea Point,” said City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue services spokesperson Theo Lane.
“Twenty-two firefighters, four fire engines, one aerial appliance and a rescue vehicle responded to the incident. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire at this stage is undetermined.”
The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Sam Thurgood said the damage to the synagogue was “substantial”, and called for prayers from the community.
“Dear community, you may have heard the terrible news of the fire in the shul [synagogue] tonight. Everyone is okay and although the damage is substantial whatever is lost can be rebuilt. At this point we need prayers and Mitzvot, but there will be a great deal needed in the days and months ahead. We will update you on the way forward as we have a clearer idea of the path to be charted.”
Investigators are probing the cause of the fire, and say that no signs of foul play have been found at this time.
“Our heartfelt prayers are with Rabbi Thurgood and the entire congregation,” the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said in a statement in response to the blaze.
“The SAJBD can confirm on behalf of the synagogue that there are no injuries and investigators report no signs of foul play at this stage and await the outcome of a full investigation,” said Rael Kaimowitz, chairman of the Cape SAJBD.
Witnesses said Wednesday morning that the synagogue’s seven Torah scrolls had been destroyed in the blaze, local radio host Howard Feldman reported via Twitter.
“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”