A fire ripped through Chabad-Lubavitch of the Panhandle, in Tallahassee, Fla., gutting the newly renovated building and consuming the Torah scrolls.

The Tallahassee Fire Department confirmed that firefighters were dispatched to the Chabad center at 3:21 a.m. on Sunday.

“Crews found fire showing and heavy smoke coming from the eaves,” the fire department wrote in a statement. The cause of the fire, which ravaged the 11,000-square-foot building, is under investigation. No injuries were reported.

Chabad-Lubavitch of the Panhandle was established in 2000 and serves the Jewish student population at Florida State University, in addition to the general Jewish community in Tallahassee. Rabbi Schneur Zalman Oirechman, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Panhandle with his wife, Chanie, says the loss is devastating.

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer and state fire marshal, tweeted on Sunday: “The State Fire Marshal’s Office is on the scene and will have better access to the site once the smoldering ends. Rabbi Oirechman is a fixture in Tallahassee’s Jewish community, and we offer up our thoughts and prayers.”

The rabbi said the fire will not erase the goodness that spread forth from the physical structure. “While that is something no fire can negate, we are now faced with the destruction not only of the building, but of our Torah scrolls, literally hundreds of books, and our kitchen and all our other facilities,” he told Chabad.org.

“Chanie and I are shocked and overwhelmed by this terrible fire,” said Oirechman, adding that it would not move them from their goal of providing a safe Jewish space for thousands of students and community members. “With G‑d>’s help, we will yet build a stronger and brighter future out of the ashes.”


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