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Louisville Chabad Synagogue Destroyed By Massive Fire

A neighborhood synagogue in Louisville was destroyed by a fire Saturday afternoon, just hours after St. Matthews firefighters extinguished a fire in an adjoining residence.

The synagogue, owned by Chabad of Kentucky, also housed a community center and served as the organization’s regional headquarters for the state.

Louisville Fire Department spokesman Bobby Cooper said its arson investigators had not yet determined a cause for the fire as of Sunday afternoon.

St. Matthews Mayor and fire department spokesman Rick Tonini said they responded to a 4 a.m. call that morning to put out a kitchen fire at an adjoining residence, but were called back to the address in the early afternoon and found the Chabad center engulfed in flames.

Tonini said it took seven trucks from five different departments — including Louisville, Jeffersontown, Fern Creek and Buechel — to put out the flames. 

“When I pulled up to Dutchman’s Lane and Breckinridge Lane, I looked to the right and the whole sky was filled with smoke,” he said. 

Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, regional director of Chabad of Kentucky, told The Courier Journal he and other Chabas members managed to take the synagogue’s Torah scrolls from the center when the first fire broke out  and there was only minimal damage.

Litvin lives several houses away from the center, where they took the scrolls and held a remembrance service later that morning due to electricity being cut off at the synagogue — only to later discover it on fire.

Litvin said it was a “miracle” their 75 congregants — including 25 children — were not in the synagogue at the time of the larger fire and in harm’s way.

“There’s a story of a man who was on his way to a big vacation and he breaks his leg, and he feels so bad that God let his leg be broken just before his vacation,” he said. “And then he reads that the plane went down and he says God saved my life by breaking my leg.”

“So I absolutely see the hand of God here… Yes, this leg got broken, the core of the building is gone. But we can rebuild the building.”

Litvin said officials told him they have not uncovered any evidence of arson, though their investigation is ongoing, including determining if the second fire was a reignition of the first.

Just 10 days before the fire, Litvin noted Chabad of Kentucky was honored at Gov. Andy Beshear’s prayer breakfast in Frankfort for its charitable work for the families impacted by the deadly tornadoes in Western Kentucky.

He says their community is now asking for the same kind of assistance in their time of need. Members of the public wishing to donate to Chabad of Kentucky can do so through their website at chabadky.com/donate.