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DRAMATIC FOOTAGE: Sifrei Torah Rescued as Fire Rips Through Shul in Houston; Investigated as Arson

Bichasdei Hashem, firefighters managed to rescue all of nearly a dozen Sefrei Torah from a fire that broke out at a Shul in Southwest Houston, Wednesday night.

Rabbi Avraham Yaghobian told the media that the fire broke out at around 9:00PM inside the Sephardic Torah Vachesed Shul on South Braeswood Boulevard near Hillcroft Avenue. He says a group of around 30 people were inside the building learning when the fire started.

Some of the congregants heard movement at around 9:00PM, and moments later, deputies who happened to be passing by the Shul burst through the doors and ordered everyone out.

“One of our congregants screamed, ‘Get out, it’s a fire! Everyone get out!'” said Rabbi Yaghobian.


Initially, some congregants tried to put the fire out themselves for fear of the Sifrei Torah being damaged, Rabbi Yaghobian told Eyewitness News. Several attempted to run back into the building to rescue the Sifrei Torah, but firefighters prevented them from doing so and instead went back themselves to bring out them out.

Dramatic footage shows the firefighters carrying out the Sifrei Torah – which were all saved.

“I really want to thank the firefighters and police for their bravery, their sensitivity and understanding,” Rabbi Yaghobian said. “We were willing to jump in there, even if some of us were arrested, just to walk in and take those things (Sifrei Torah). We would take whatever damage to our bodies. We didn’t want our holy articles being hurt. The firefighters saw how important it was. They were caring.”

One Sefer Torah did sustain minor water damage. But the rest of them were in perfect condition.

No one was injured in the blaze, which is being investigated as arson.

The fire appears to have started on the back side of the building, according to Houston Fire Department Chief Herman Gonzales. It then spread up into the attic and onto the roof.

Nearly 300 families are member at the Shul.


(Yossi Taub – YWN)

4 Responses

  1. Tragic, and BH no one was seriously hurt and that the Torahs were not destroyed. Although one’s instinct is to jump into the burning building to save the Torahs (and I might mistakenly do the same) , one must realize that saving one’s life trumps saving a Torah (as miserable as that sounds for our holy sifrei Torah). I’m curious as to why many of these shuls don’t keep a locked safe inside the Aron Kodesh, to protect against theft, water, and fire damage?

  2. These (non-Jewish!) firefighters deserve the highest commendation possible. I hope the shul members find a way to demonstrate their gratitude to the fire department in a really meaningful way.

  3. @TGIShabbos You express my thoughts exactly. Im surpirsed the Rabbi would say that he would risk harm to his body to save a sefer Torah. This does not appear to be correct, and I would argue could constitue a chillul Hashem, because others might learn from that action and risk physical injury in the wrong situations. In addition, by rushing in you would be endangering the fire fighters from doing their jobs. I would be curious and interested to see an in depth halachic analysis of what the proper thing to do is.

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