The Gonsa Geshicte (the whole story) about the fire near the Synagogue
by Marilyn Blackhall

     On Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, just after noon there was a large fire in an abandoned house up the hill and behind the Synagogue. It burned for quite a while creating large amounts of smoke and was dangerously close to our building. From the Rabbi’s office we were not more than about 10 feet from the burning building and the firefighters who worked diligently for over an hour to put out the flames.
      Linda Mueller saw the smoke from Blackbeards, promptly called Trudie Prior and Penny Feuerzeig who then reached Nina and me on our cell phones as we were still in town. We had left the Synagogue only a short while ago having organized Shabbat morning services in the Rabbi’s absence. We called 911 and ran up to the Synagogue to assess the danger and see what needed to be done. The firefighters had just arrived as others had called them as well. Meanwhile Penny and Trudie maintained telephone communications amongst everyone from home.
     We contacted Michael to return to the Synagogue with keys and Tina Bryan our office manager was also called. We thought Mina was off island for the day, but having heard about the fire, she came to the Synagogue at about the same time as Michael and Tina.
     Linda and a visiting cruise ship friend, Mina, Tina and Tina’s husband who accompanied her, Michael, Robert Ba-at, Nina and I removed the Torahs from the ark and brought them to Lilienfeld House. The silver ornaments from the Torahs were wrapped by Mina and locked in the gift shop for extra security. We also removed a variety of other historic items from the museum as well as the office computers. As a further precautionary measure Michael remained on the premises for a while to make certain that no problems reoccurred. Many, many thanks to all who helped or were poised to come and help, if necessary.
     We were amazingly fortunate as the wind seemed to be in our favor, blowing the smoke away from the Synagogue. Just a small change in wind direction could have been disastrous for us.
     We checked with Herb Horwitz, an experienced insurance adjuster, both before and after the fire. So far it does not seem as though we sustained any noticeable damage. We have been instructed by Herb, however, to check our wiring and the back of the building in case there is damage that was not obvious at the time.
     There are abandoned properties behind the Synagogue that are occupied by supposedly homeless drug abusers. The Rabbi has been cautioning us about the potential dangers and we began to check ownership of the buildings a while ago as well as to discuss actions the congregation might take. Last night at its monthly meeting, the Synagogue’s Executive Committee appointed a small task force which will, hopefully, include neighbors with similar concerns to see if we can either find a way to purchase these properties or arrange to have them cared for by their owners so that they are no longer a threat to the neighborhood.