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‘Loss of a home:’ Chabad FSU community determined to move forward following devastating fire

Flames transformed a synagogue into ashes Sunday morning, stunning the Tallahassee Jewish community and sparking an effort to move forward.
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 7:20 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Flames transformed a synagogue into ashes Sunday morning, stunning the Tallahassee Jewish community and sparking an effort to move forward.

Rabbi Schneur Oirechman was out of town when the fire erupted. He received an urgent phone call from his son, who was still at the family’s property next to the Chabad House. He had heard what sounded like explosions. Now, their house of worship was burning to the ground.

“My first reaction was crying,” Rabbi Oirechman said.

Monday afternoon, workers were able to retrieve two sacred Torah scrolls from the church’s rubble. They were badly damaged by both water and smoke.

“Seeing the burnt Torah scrolls, that’s difficult,” he said.

Max James is a FSU student who says he rediscovered his faith at Chabad FSU.

“It’s a loss of a home really,” he said. “I didn’t even process it really. This was the last thing we could expect.”

Misha Leah Bertch is a family friend of Rabbi Oirechman. She realized his family isn’t used to needed help. More often, they offer solace to others in need.

“I expect him to take care of everyone else because that’s how they are. We’re trying to be here for them,” she said.

Investigators from both the State Fire Marshal’s office and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were on scene Monday combing through the rubble.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

An ATF spokesperson told WCTV the agency was asked to assist the investigation by the state. The State Fire Marshall’s Office had not yet returned a request for comment from WCTV.

Meanwhile, the group is already forming plans to rebuild. A new fundraising campaign is underway. The Rabbi plans to open a temporary structure in time for the Fall semester.

State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis says the investigation into the Chabad FSU Fire could take months to complete. He cited the complex nature of fire investigations in a tweet posted Tuesday afternoon.

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