Community responds to Chabad fire with offers of help

By Lee Chottiner
Community Editor

A fire that destroyed the Chabad House on Almara Circle is under investigation by St. Matthews Fire & Rescue (Community photo by Lee Chottiner)

The story rising from the ashes of the Louisville Chabad House is not so much that fire destroyed the building, but that a community closed ranks to help.
Since flames burned through the synagogue on Almara Circle Saturday morning, and heavily damaged the house to which it was attached, offers of help have been pouring in, said Chabad of Kentucky Regional Director Rabbi Avrohom Litvin.
“So many people have offered to help,” he said. “Some wanted to donate … some put on teffilin to do a mitzvah for us. It was an outpouring of love.”
Everyone from rabbis to politicians called to offer their support.
“I got a call from Greg,” Litvin said. “I said, ‘Greg who? Is this the mayor?’ He said, ‘Today, I’m just reaching out as Greg.’”
As for where Chabad will hold services this coming week, “I’ve gotten offers from Keneseth Israel, from the JCC, from JFCS, from a church in the neighborhood. Everyone is reaching out to help.”
The fire began sometime around 4:30 a.m., Saturday – the last day of Passover and during Shabbat. After firefighters declared the building safe at 9 a.m., Litvin’s sons, Rabbis Shmully and Chaim, removed the Torahs as well as some prayerbooks and tallises from the sanctuary, and services were held at Litvin’s house.
That’s when the fire flared up.
“Just as we got to Yizkor, we saw billowing smoke from the Chabad House,’ Litvin said.
(A fire that appears out can reignite if embers that are not doused have access to oxygen and fuel to burn.)
While the cause of the fire has not yet been announced by firefighters, “they have told me they have no reason to suggest any foul play or arson,” the rabbi added.
He said the blaze was started by a grease fire in the kitchen, though that could not be confirmed as of Sunday. More details about the cause could be released on Monday.
The cause of the fire is being investigated by St. Matthews Fire Protection District, said its public information officer, Rick Tonini. But a separate report will be made by an arson investigator for the Louisville Fire Department (LFD), he adde.
Major Pat Dalrymple, battalion chief of District 4 of the LFD, said the fire began in the house then rolled to rear where the vinyl siding Chabad house was attached.
“From the siding back, it will be a complete loss,” he said.
Tonini said the fire could be seen from blocks away. He spotted it as he approached the scene from Breckinridge and Dutchmans Lane.
“The sky was filled with smoke,” he said, “so it was really rolling.”
Everything in the Chabad House was lost, even the artifacts presented during a rededication ceremony months ago.
“Nothing is salvageable,” Litvin said. “Not a stitch.”
The occupants of the house, a Jewish family of five, including a newborn baby, escaped unharmed, according to Rabbi Boruch Susman, the owner of the dwelling.
Susman couldn’t say if any part of the house is salvageable
The Chabad House, which is located one block from the new Trager Family Jewish Community Center, is one of four Chabad facilities in the area. The others are Louisville Jewish Day School on Dupont Circle, Project Friendship on Breckenridge Lane and Chabad of Prospect.
Approximately 30 firefighters from Louisville, St. Matthews, Buechel, Jeffersontown and Fern Creek responded to the call.
Litvin couldn’t say when, or how, Chabad, will rebuild – only that it will.
“We will certainly provide for the community in a bigger and better way,” he said. For now, though, “it’s too soon; the wound is too fresh.”

Want to help?
Chabad has opened a website to accept donations at



















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