October 19, 2019

Suspect Arrested on Arson Charge in Minnesota Synagogue Fire

The Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth, Minn., burned down of yet unknown causes, Sept. 9, 2019. (Duluth News Tribune Screenshot)

(JTA) — A suspect was arrested in connection with the fire that burned to the ground a historic synagogue in northern Minnesota.

The Adas Israel Synagogue in Duluth, Minnesota caught fire early on the morning of September 9. The building was more than 100 years old.

Matthew James Amiot, 36, was arrested on Friday on a first-degree arson charge, according to Sgt. Matt Donnelly, with the St. Louis County Jail. Amiot will appear in St. Louis County court in Duluth on Monday, according to reports.

A news conference had been set for late Sunday morning to discuss the case. It originally had been scheduled for Saturday, but was rescheduled in order to respect the Jewish Sabbath, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

“We became aware of the arrest heading into Shabbat and will continue working with the Duluth Police Department to inform the Jewish community of the nature of this arrest as the investigation continues,” Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in a statement Friday. “We will await issuing further comment until charges are filed. We wish the Duluth Jewish community a peaceful and restful Shabbat as we continue to offer our full support.”

The Modern Orthodox synagogue has around 75 members. The local Jewish federations have started a fundraising campaign on behalf of the synagogue, and another local synagogue, Temple Israel, has offered Adas Israel temporary space.

Eight of the synagogue’s 14 Torah scrolls were rescued from the blaze.