Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, Director of the Chabad Center in Tallahassee, Florida, has finally been allowed access to the destroyed complex following a devastating fire that raged through the building on Motzei Shabbos.
The rabbi is also preparing for an especially heartbreaking funeral — that of the center’s precious Torah scrolls.
A Chabad emissary in Tallahassee for the past 23 years with his wife, Chanie, Rabbi Oirechman said the devastation he is facing is “shocking and tragic” — one that has brought him to tears.
The Morris and Lillian Tabacinic Chabad Center, which served as a center for Jewish life for hundreds of students and locals for the past decade, was completely destroyed in the fire.
Included in the loss was the center’s kitchen, a Judaica library, and decades of Rabbi Oirechman’s handwritten notes of Torah classes, which he has been using for teaching for many years.
Seeing the damage, assessed at nearly $2 million, was devastating, Rabbi Oirechman said.
The most tragic destruction of all was that of the two precious Torah scrolls, which will soon be buried.
The Chabad Center “had become a beacon of light, full of the beauty and joy of Jewish life” over the years, the rabbi said.
“Thousands of Jewish students and members of our community met one another at Shabbat and holiday services and meals, participated in Torah study, and witnessed acts of kindness that emanated to all areas.
“Alumni from all over the world who have studied at FSU in the past 22 years, as well as current students, are offering support and help,” Rabbi Oirechman said.
“Many are telling us they feel their second home has been destroyed.”
The cause of the fire is still unknown, and is under investigation, the rabbi said.
“Chanie and I are shocked and overwhelmed by this terrible fire; fortunately, no one was injured. We are committed to overcoming this tragedy, and with God’s help we will yet build a stronger and brighter future out of the ashes,” he said.
An emergency fund has been set up for cleanup, temporary structure/building, utilities, kitchen, synagogue furnishings and books, services and programs, office equipment, staff salaries, etc.