Cause of Congress Street Synagogue/Museum Fire Under Investigation


A Ladder at the Site of the Synagogue/Museum Early this Afternoon, 267 Congress Street, on the East End of Portland.

The Fire Department Investigator Interviews Rabbi Gary Berenson on Site.

“I was grinding the mortar out of the bricks.  The fire alarm went off.  I saw flames on the second floor, behind that large window,” said Jason Henderson pointing to the middle window from his position in the front yard of the Etz Chaim Synagogue/ Maine Jewish Museum,  early this afternoon. Henderson called the Fire Department and the crew from the Munjoy Hill station arrived promptly.  They reported that they saw smoke coming from the same middle window on the second floor Henderson referred to above.

Electricians had been working on the inside of the property recently according to Henderson.  Yesterday was their last day on the job. According to Steven Brinn, Board President of the Maine Jewish Museum, the company was rewiring  the historic building and installing heat pumps among other improvements.  The building was erected sometime prior to 1882 according to Rabbi Gary Berenson a long-time Rabbi at the Synagogue.

At a brief press conference held around 3:00 pm by Deputy Chief Jon Henricks said there was water damage to the property.  However, most of it was caused by the sprinkler system that “knocked the fire down” quickly.  He also said the fire is believed to have started on the second floor in the congregational/chapel area.

The Fire Department investigator told he could not say at this time how long such an investigation into the cause of the fire would take.