Past President Reacts to Loss of Duluth Synagogue

Ryan Juntti
Updated: September 09, 2019 11:09 PM

Parts of the Adas Israel Congregation Orthodox Jewish synagogue are now reduced to rubble after a Monday morning fire gutted it.


"It's a real loss," said Phillip Sher, past president of the synagogue.

Flames engulfed the synagogue shortly before 2:30.

"When I arrived on scene, I saw a shed that was on fire on the side of the building," said Duluth Fire Asst. Chief Clint Reff.

Related: Daylight Reveals Heavy Fire Damage to Duluth Synagogue

Crews began attacking the fire on both the shed and the synagogue.

"We immediately tried to extinguish that as soon as we put water on the fire, noticed a fire, and smoke coming from the eve level indicating that we had something going on in the attic level," said Reff.

At one point, a down firefighter was struck by falling debris prompting a mayday call. He was treated and released.

"As soon as that company exited the building, and then we started having a collapse. Roof level collaped, and then both the west side of the building, and the front side collapsed also," said Reff.

The fire was knocked down before 6:00, but it appears as though the damage was done by that point.

Miraculously, a painting and some of the Torah scrolls were recovered.

"We were fortunate enough to be able to reclaim some of them," said Sher. "That's the heart of judaism that's just a fantastic thing," said Sher.

Sher says people came from all over the country to see the synagogue that was built in 1902, and after hearing the news, he says people from Canada and as far away as New Jersey have reached out.

"It's nice to know that people care, and it's kind of almost like rubbing salt in the wound too because every time you get a phone call you're reminded of your loss," said Sher.

Sher says he has attended 6000 services at the synagogue, but it appears as though there won't be anymore.

Sher says he does not expect the synagogue to be able to be rebuilt.


Ryan Juntti

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