(JNS.org) — Torah scrolls worth more than half a million dollars were burned and damaged in a fire on Tuesday night at the Arthurs Road synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa, the congregation’s rabbi, Sam Thurgood, announced on Wednesday.
The fire enabled the fall of the roof at what was a Dutch church that was transformed into a synagogue about six decades ago.
Thurgood said that although the fire’s cause remains unknown, it was unlikely arson.
He denied that Chanukah candles were left burning inside the synagogue. It is believed the fire started in the ark inside the sanctuary.
“We still have a remnant of one of the scrolls, but the other four were burnt completely,” said Thurgood, according to The Sunday Times. “Most of our library inside the synagogue was largely saved thanks to dedicated firefighters who worked very hard to put out the fire last night.”
“We are all very heartbroken by what has happened,” he added. “This is a place where most of us got married and brought up our children for the past 60 years.”