Two Fires at a Westside Jewish Community Center in a Week Raise Questions

The fires that took place five days apart destroyed much of the center built in 1929.

Chabad of SW Portland fire. (Portland Fire & Rescue)

In the past week, Portland Fire & Rescue responded to two fires that happened in the same building five days apart in Southwest Portland.

The building is home to the Chabad Center for Jewish Life.

The first fire happened Aug. 14, apparently caused by an electrical malfunction.

However, Portland fire officials say they're not sure what caused the second fire in the early morning of Aug. 19.

Chabad is a Hasidic movement, among the more traditional and conservative sects of contemporary Judaism. The center is a welcoming space for Jewish people that provides a supportive community and Judaic education.

In the police report, investigators noted that the building was boarded up and vacant, making it vulnerable to crime. The quick succession of the two fires raises questions about whether Chabad was targeted.

The fire at the center, built in 1929, took firefighters about an hour to get under control after spreading to the attic.

The fire bureau said it had not determined the cause of the blaze and was seeking further information. While officials believe the first fire was accidental, "they have not come to that same conclusion today."

In a Facebook post in response to the fire, Chabad representatives acknowledged the support from the community and announced a fundraiser to help rebuild the center.

"The arson team is currently investigating the Chabad House and we don't have access nor are we able to comment as to motives or causes at this time," the Facebook post said.

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