DULUTH, Minnesota (KBJR) – A Duluth man is facing first-degree arson charges in the burning of a historic synagogue in that city.
Matthew Amiot, 36, is accused of setting the blaze that destroyed Adas Israel Synagogue September 9, leaving a Jewish community searching for a new place to worship.
“True Judaism is in the heart, not in the building,” said congregation member Phillip Sher. “Our legacy will go along with our hearts.”
Fire broke out at Adas Israel Synagogue in the early morning hours. Investigators said it started in a structure outside of the building and spread through the synagogue’s open, wooden framing, charring nearly everything in its path.
At least one firefighter was hospitalized after being struck by falling debris.
Firefighters were able to retrieve several religious relics, including eight historic Torah scrolls cherished by the congregation.
“We feel proud that we could help them save some things that were really important to them,” said Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj. “I think it will help them move on in the future.”
Authorities said it’s too early in the investigation to determine Amiot’s possible motive.
“We don’t have an indication that there was a motive of hate in this,” said Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken. “That may change.”
Now the Adas Israel community is joining together despite the pain, grateful for the outpouring of support they’ve received.
“All I can do is thank people,” said Sher. “We’re really not asking anything, justt being thankful to people for being there.”
According to its website, the Adas Israel Congregation is an Orthodox/High Conservative Jewish congregation with a membership of 75 people.
Construction of the synagogue was completed in 1902.