MILFORD – The historic synagogue building may be gutted by fire, but Rabbi Schneur Wilhelm says that the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont “is coming together and will come out stronger.”
The Sunday-morning blaze destroyed everything inside the 86-year-old structure located on the corner of Merwin Avenue and Benjamin Street, except the two Torah scrolls. A preliminary finding by the Fire Department concluded the fire was electrical in nature, and was not suspicious.
Wilhelm was at home, next door to the synagogue, when he received a call from the Milford fire department. He ran to the shul and introduced himself to the fire chief, then asked him to rescue the Torah scrolls.
“It was miraculous: the walls and the stained glass windows next to the Aron Hakodesh [the Holy Ark] were destroyed,” Wilhelm says, “but it’s as if there was a fireproof wall stopping the fire from getting to the Torahs.”
The wet scrolls were wrapped in a tarp and carried outside. Wilhelm called Brooklyn-based scribe Zalman Shapiro, who had repaired one of the scrolls in 2009, and was told to unroll the scrolls to prevent the letters from sticking and peeling off. Some of the parchment is blackened from smoke damage; Wilhelm says that he will consult with Shapiro on how best to treat the scrolls. continue...