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Historic Synagogue Damaged In Fire

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MILFORD, Conn. (AP) _ An 85-year-old synagogue listed on the National Register of Historic Places was heavily damaged by a fire Sunday, but firefighters were able to save the congregation’s two Torah scrolls and other important items. No one was injured.

Rabbi Schneur Wilhelm of the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont said fire officials told him an electrical problem started the blaze, which destroyed the Milford synagogue’s sanctuary and its ornate stained glass windows. The fire was reported by a police officer shortly before 9:30 a.m.

Wilhelm said the synagogue was insured and the congregation will rebuild it. The two Torah scrolls were somewhat damaged and will be assessed to see if they can be restored, he said, adding that he was grateful firefighters were able to save them.

“It looks terrible. It’s beyond recognition,” Wilhelm said of the sanctuary.

“We’ll regroup. We’ll get together, and we’ll come back strong.”

The congregation was formed in 1926 and the synagogue was completed the next year. It sits off Edgefield Avenue, about two blocks from Long Island Sound, in a neighborhood dubbed “Bagel Beach.”

Wilhelm said it’s the only “summer synagogue” in the state, with worshippers gathering there for services from about April to November and attending services elsewhere in the coldest months. He said 20 to 30 people attend services on Saturdays, while more than 150 gathered there for the high holiday of Yom Kippur last month.

He said the congregation will hold services next Saturday at a location to be determined.

The synagogue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, according to the National Park Service.

Park Service documents say the building is architecturally significant “because it is an example of a historic Connecticut synagogue built in the Colonal Revival Style at a resort location.” It is historically significant because it is “one of three known congregations in the state at shoreline resort locations,” the documents say.

“There are a lot of memories and history attached to that building,” Wilhelm said. “A lot of our older congregants felt that the fire put an end to that. But we’re going to try to rebuild.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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