Firefighters responded at 2:23 a.m. Monday to the fire at the 120-year-old building that was the home of the tiny Adas Israel Congregation, and police investigators were on the scene soon after, Tusken said. Two “people of interest” were interviewed, Tusken said, although he didn’t characterize them as suspects.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, issued a statement regarding the fire. “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.
Mike Baddin, a board member of the temple, later said he’d been about to leave the scene when firefighters told him they thought they could safely get into a corner of the basement. He was asked if there was anything the congregation wanted and if anyone had a pickup truck.
“Well, I own a pickup truck, so I went home and got it, then they started pulling out some artifacts, some things of value,” he said.
At the news conference, it was reported that eight of the synagogue’s 14 Torahs were saved, although Baddin later said there was some uncertainty about the number. But he placed half in storage and half in someone else’s home, Baddin said.