Dear friends of the Maine Jewish Museum,
While we have sad news to report, there is a silver lining to report as well. For the first time in the 100 year old history of Etz Chaim Synagogue, and the short 11 year history of the Maine Jewish Museum, we have had a fire. The silver lining is that the damage was contained and the fire was quickly extinguished by the Fire Department and the activation of our sprinkler system.
The fire started at the front of the building behind the brick wall and spread to the rear of the Holy Ark containing four torahs. The torahs were not burned but suffered water damage from the sprinkler and the water used by the firemen. We are very hopeful that they will be able to be saved. We will have experts inspect them very soon and advise us on what to do to save them. Unfortunately, there was extensive water and smoke damage throughout the building and most walls, floors and ceilings will need to be replaced and the contents of the entire building will need to be removed. There was some damage to certain pieces of art as well.
The building is over 100 years old and is of wood construction. A fire would normally spread very rapidly and could easily have consumed the entire building. We are very fortunate that the sprinkler system worked beautifully and that the fire department responded so quickly. There were no people in the building at the time of the fire and there were no casualties.
Cleanup began last night immediately after the fire and the restoration will begin in earnest next week and last for several months. Our scheduled 2020 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will need to be rescheduled and we will let everyone know as soon as we have a new date.
Before we know it, the museum and synagogue will be back better than ever. We thank God that there were no injuries and that the damage was not much worse than it was.
We will keep you updated as to the progress of the restoration and look forward to inviting everyone back at some point for a grand re-opening.