Austin synagogue raises nearly $500K for repairs in wake of Halloween arson

Austin
Congregation Beth Israel fire

The Austin Fire Department Tweeted this photo of a fire started outside a synagogue in Central Austin Sunday Night. (Austin Fire Department/Twitter)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Congregation Beth Israel rebuilds after someone intentionally set it on fire Halloween night, the synagogue’s leadership gave details Wednesday on how people near and far are helping the effort.

Lori Adelman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel, said leaders are “filled with gratitude” by all the donations that have been made to its recovery fund since the fire. So far, the synagogue has raised nearly $500,000 to make repairs and improvements.

She said the fund has received 1,038 total donations from 40 states, and 70% of the donations stateside have come from Texans. The synagogue has also received international donations from people in Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Adelman said 237 donations came from those who already attend services there, including every Board of Trustee member. A group of anonymous donors challenged others to raise $100,000, and then the donors would match that, which Adelman said has been matched.

Adelman said synagogue volunteers are talking with several architecture firms and getting bids on work to the sanctuary, and that they’ll make sure the entire congregation weighs on before moving forward with that.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, faces a federal arson charge in connection with the fire. The FBI said he used “an accelerant” to start a fire near the sanctuary doors.

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