Masada damaged by fire

October 1, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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A fire which swept through a section of Sydney’s Masada College on the first night of Rosh Hashana has extensively damaged the Kehillat Masada synagogue within the campus. The school itself has also been badly damaged.

The building has been sealed as the building awaits inspection by insurance assessors. Today, experts have been examining one of the congregation’s Sefer Torah scrolls which was damaged in the blaze.

No way in - the school is in shut-down

Congregation president Cecil Bass told J-Wire: “We have lost siddurim, chumashim and machzorim as well as tallitim and tefillin…it is substantial and it will take at least six months to repair the damage.”

The synagogue has a congregation of 450 families. Bass added: “We will have 1200 at our Yom Kippur services and we are yet to determine where they will be held.”

For Rosh Hashana, the congregation split into two with members going to the Chabad House of North Shore where they were given rooms to hold their own services and others going Rabbi Paul Lewin at the North Shore Synagogue in Lindfield.

J-Wire understands that the fire swept upstairs and has caused serious damage to the school’s library, especially its collection of religious books.

Community photographer Ingrid Shakenovsky witnessed the fire in progress. She told J-Wire: “It was raging with thick smoke blanketing the scene. But I could see the burning orange flames on the second floor.”

School president Trevor Lorge issued the following statement in conjunction with the school’s principal Wendy Barel:

All that can be seen from outside

As I am sure all of you have heard, a very large fire occurred on the St. Ives ‘Michael Faktor’ campus on Wednesday night. Significant damage was caused to the Pelerman Centre.  The fire started in the servery area within the Pelerman Centre.  The immediate focus was on saving the Torah Scrolls and limiting the damage to the remainder of the premises. The safety of all persons on the site was paramount throughout the incident. 


Police, Fire and Insurance Forensic teams, have all finished their examinations and investigations.  The cause of the fire was accidental and did not occur under suspicious circumstances. The most important thing is that no-one was hurt or injured and that it took place after the premises had been vacated from busy first night Rosh Hashanah services.  It is nevertheless upsetting for all of us to see so much damage and destruction.  The College will work closely with Kehillat Masada towards reconstructing the damaged buildings.


At this stage it is not possible to say how long this may take, but given the extent of the damage, the enormous clean-up and refit that will be required, the Pelerman Centre is unlikely to be back in use for the remainder of this calendar year.  The areas affected are the Shul, Board Room, KM offices, Teperson Centre, Beit Midrash, and Lynette Philips hall.  We will keep you informed as we get a better understanding of the timeframe.  The High School library has also been affected, due to smoke and soot from the fire and will also be closed for assessment and clean-up.

The College had always planned to hold HSC examinations in the new primary school classrooms, so there will be no impact whatsoever on any of the HSC students.  We may need to consider alternate venues for events that have been planned for the Hall, during term 4.  We will let you know of these changes as they are determined.    

We recognise that many students and parents, and other members of the community, had personal items in the Shule or hall.  We will work with KM to try and return as many of these items as is possible.  In some cases these items may have been destroyed or badly damaged from the smoke.  We will continue to advise on progress in this matter.

The cost of replacement of the facilities is covered by our insurances and we are of course working closely with all the relevant parties to get back to normal as soon as possible.  There will likely be some inconvenience while this is being done, but unfortunately this cannot be avoided.  Our approach will be to ensure the safety of the students and staff at all times, as well as all other personnel that need to be on site.  We thank you in advance for your understanding in this regard.

The affected areas, have already been secured and barricaded.  As such the site is safe and students are all expected back at school as normal on the first day of term 4.

We would like to thank all those that have helped out, and have gone far beyond the “call of duty”, both staff, CSG, fellow Board members, and the community.

Lorge told J-Wire: “I can confirm that there was nothing sinister about how the fire started. The Torah scrolls were rescued by firemen under instructions from school representatives.”

Media reports say there are no suspicious circumstances.


2 Responses to “Masada damaged by fire”
  1. Grateful member says:

    i would like to extend gratitude to Rabbi Schapiro-Chabad North Shore for Hosting MASADA last minute in their community center for the past 3 Memorable days.
    ‘The unity that existed during those to days was of such that i have never experienced.
    It was truly beautiful to have services together with Chabad that friday night, As Rabbi Krebs Said “it will definitely be a service that one will never forget.
    Thanks once again,
    A Grateful Member.

  2. Gedalia says:

    A sad start to the year. I wish the community strength in rebuilding and replacing its infrastructure.

    Please note for future news coverage it is not grammatically correct to say “Sefer Torahs”. The correct Hebrew is “Sifrei Torah”.

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