‘It’s gut wrenching:’ Chabad of Kentucky destroyed by grease fire

An organization known for giving back is in need of help.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 10:37 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - An organization known for giving back is in need of help.

The headquarters for Chabad of Kentucky was severely damaged in a fire Saturday morning.

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin’s father and brother built the Louisville synagogue from the ground up. So seeing picture of the family surveying the destroyed building is just heartbreaking. They said they’re thankful nobody was hurt, but the process to rebuild will be a long one.

“It’s the only synagogue I call home,” said Rabbi Litvin with Chabad of the Bluegrass.

The home that once welcomed Jews from across Kentucky, is now nothing but charred debris.

“The damage is absolutely catastrophic. The synagogue is gone,” Rabbi Litvin said.

The last few days of Passover are generally a festive time in Judaism.

“That very day we had services,” Rabbi Litvin said. “My parents offered to host it in their homes and services continued.”

Before they were meant to gather, Saturday morning, a small grease fire started in the headquarters building for Chabad of Kentucky in Louisville.

“The fire department responded. They assured us the fire was out and nothing remained. They came by at 9:00 a.m. to reverify. Then around noon, the building burst into flames. Within moments, the entire building was engulfed,” Rabbi Litvin said.

The synagogue is more than just a building.

“The spot where I pray. The books that we read. For all of that to be lost, it’s gut wrenching. But more, it’s that space. That space of community,” Rabbi Litvin said.

The rooms where people worshipped are now piles of burned wood. Prayers once read at podiums are now read beside what’s left of the synagogue.

But, amid the debris, there is one miracle.

“Thank God the Torah scrolls, both of the holiest items in Judaism, and handwritten scrolls, each one costing upwards of $50,000 had been removed after the first fire in case there was any smoke damage in the room,” Rabbi Litvin said.

While the future now holds more questions than answers, Rabbi Litvin knows this:

“The rebuilding both physically and emotionally is going to be a journey,” Rabbi Litvin said.

Rabbi Litvin said investigators don’t expect arson at this time.

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