Chabad Jewish student center torched in arson attack at University of Delaware

Fire officials in the area deemed it arson. A hate crime is not being ruled out, but the investigation is ongoing.

By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News

The University of Delaware’s Chabad house suffered thousands of dollars’ worth of damage on Tuesday night after a fire burned through the building.

Fire officials in the area deemed it arson. A hate crime is not being ruled out, but the investigation is ongoing. Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio told Delaware Online that “the investigation is very open-ended right now.”

The University of Delaware Chabad is run by Rabbi Avremel Vogel and his wife Shulie. The rabbi said investigators told him “the only clues are pointing towards this being an act of arson and not a hate crime.”

“Crews arrived to find fire showing from the rear of the two-story occupancy and began an aggressive interior attack while simultaneously searching for any victims,” the Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company wrote on Facebook.

“They were faced with a number of complicating factors including an unusual building layout (numerous rooms), as well as construction hazards ranging from fire extension in the knee walls to plaster-and-lath walls. Crews remained on scene for three hours extinguishing hot spots and completing overhaul.”

Even after the fire department said the investigation is ongoing and a hate crime is not ruled out, the University of Delaware tweeted that “Authorities say there is no evidence of a hate crime at this time.”

“While Shulie and I are definitely very shaken by this, we are finding some comfort in the constant flow of emails, calls and messages being sent to us from so many students, alumni, community members and friends,” Rabbi Vogel wrote on Facebook. “We may not get to respond to all of them right now, but please know, we appreciate you all more than you can imagine.

“It’s no secret that we have outgrown our old Little Blue Chabad House, and we knew that a bigger and better purpose built facility was needed. After the events of the past 15 hours, it seems that G-d is giving us a not-so-subtle kick in the pants to look after His kids properly and build them a better home.”

In the aftermath of the fire, a GoFundMe campaign was created by Jewish students who attend the Willmington-based university. The fire damage is estimated to cost the Chabad about $75,000, but the campaign started with a goal of raising $10,000. The campaign says that further inspection of the damage could mean up to $150,000 to $200,000 in damages.

“Chabad at UD is a home away from home for many Jewish students at the University of Delaware,” the campaign reads. “Each week they open their doors for Shabbat dinners and other programs, such as holidays, celebrations and learning opportunities.”

Within hours of the creation of the campaign, however, hundreds of people made donations to help the Chabad house rebuild. At the time of publication, the campaign received almost $35,000.