JCRC Statement on Charges Filed against Defendant in Adas Israel Fire

September 16, 2019 — 3:45 p.m.

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement regarding the updated negligent fire charges against the suspect in the Adas Israel Congregation fire:

“The criminal complaint filed today confirms law enforcement’s belief that the fire at Adas Israel Congregation was not started intentionally nor was it an act motivated by antisemitism. Still, the loss of a historic synagogue building, six Torah scrolls, and other holy artifacts is immensely painful for the congregants of Adas Israel and Jews across our region.

“We reiterate our thanks to law enforcement for their diligence and professionalism throughout this investigation.”

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September 15, 2019 — 12:55 p.m.

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement regarding the booking of a suspect in the Adas Israel Congregation fire:

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) thanks the Duluth Police Department, Duluth Fire Department, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for their thorough, professional, and ongoing investigation.

“At today’s press conference in Duluth, I had the opportunity to personally thank law enforcement, city officials, and other first responders for their efforts to subdue the fire, rescue holy artifacts, and safeguard the Jewish community. I also conveyed the Twin Cities Jewish community’s unwavering support for our friends in the Twin Ports.

“While Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken stated that the current charge of first-degree arson is not being elevated as a bias-motivated or hate crime, the destruction of Adas Israel Congregation remains a tragedy for generations of Jewish Duluthians. Over the past week, we have read moving testimony of family memories that date back a century or more.

“We understand that our Jewish community feels uneasy in this current political and social environment where synagogues, mosques, and predominately black churches have been attacked in recent years. The image of a house of worship ablaze is a searing reminder of the challenges we face with rising antisemitism and bigotry in this country. We ask the public to respect the investigative process and withhold final judgment until the full facts are revealed in the criminal complaint later this week.

“While we are fortunate that there were no fatalities, we note that a courageous Duluth firefighter sustained a concussion injury while combatting the blaze. We also reiterate our thanks to Duluth’s Temple Israel and Chabad synagogues for opening their arms to welcome Adas Israel members who are grieving the loss of their spiritual home.”

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As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.