‘Someone Lit’ Fire that Severely Damaged South San Jose Synagogue, Says Rabbi

This post has been updated.

Fire investigators and police examining a severely damaged  Jewish synagogue have concluded that the Dec. 22 fire, while of suspicious origin, was not a hate crime.

"Our investigation determined that this was NOT a hate incident or racially motivated,"  San Jose police said in a statement on Twitter.

“Our synagogue went up in flames this morning,” Rabbi Mendel Weinfeld said in a Dec. 22 post on the Facebook page of The Chabad House, 1088 Branham Lane, San Jose.

“Someone lit a fire in the carport area that took over the entire building,” he wrote. “They are still investigating if there were any ulterior motives.”

Weinfeld reportedly shared security footage with investigators that showed the origins of the fire at the Almaden Valley synagogue.

Torah scrolls at The Chabad House were spared fire damage.
Photo from The Chabad House and anash.org.

“Thank G-d everyone is safe,” Weinfeld wrote, saying that the congregation’s sacred

Torah scrolls and some other holy books were recovered.

“We are all in shock and devastated at the disaster but we are also optimistic about rebuilding our Jewish community center bigger and greater!” he said.

The member of the congregation, part of the Chabt-Lubavitch Hasidic movement of orthdox Judaism, started a GoFundMe account to help the community rebuild its place of worship, at. As of the morning of Dec. 23, the fund had raised $36,717 of a $250,000 goal.

Fire of suspicious origin severely damaged interior of The Chabad House in San Jose Dec. 22.
Photo from The Chabad House and anash.org.

Anash.org, an English-language website for the associated Shluchim and Anash worldwide communities, reported that the Chabad House was “destroyed by a fire.”

Pictures taken after the fire by congregants and published on social media and on anash.org show “extensive damage to both floors of the building, which had housed a shul and a Hebrew school, led by shluchim Rabbi Mendel and Mussie Weinfeld.”

Maryann Barsky, a member of the religious community, started the fundraising campaign to help rebuild the Chabad House.

“We ask the community to come together with love, support and togetherness to help rebuild Chabad,” she wrote. “In the shadow of the fire, and amongst the ashes, a light of unity will shine brighter and much longer than the fire of destruction.”


Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. Did the rabbi really write capital G dash lower case d?
    What does this mean?
    “Thank G-d everyone is safe,” wrote Rabbi Mendel Weinfeld.

  2. Is anyone familiar with this area?
    It looks like the property backs up directly to the Guadalupe River which also flows under Branham Ln overpass at Almaden Expressway.

    Hopefully the cameras were able to catch a description of the criminal arsonists,
    but is this area a vagrant campsite or congregation area?

  3. @ CA Patriot – Orthodox Jews, out of respect for the Lord’s name do not write out the whole word anywhere but in holy scriptures. Deuteronomy 12:4 prohibits the erasing, destroying or desecrating the name of the Lord.

  4. SJ Gal, thank you, I wasn’t sure if it was a Facebook ‘trigger’ word or an SJI edit
    (I have found certain common words cause SJI posts to block thru trial & error)
    …something new learned and maybe answer others that have the same question reading the article.

  5. In many version of the Bible that I have read, when referring to the Hebrew G– in the Old Testament, it uses the full cap LORD. They may only be Catholic Bibles.

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