DULUTH — City of Duluth officials announced Sunday, Sept. 15, the name of the man arrested in connection with the fire that destroyed Adas Israel Congregation synagogue.
Matthew James Amiot was arrested Friday, Sept. 13, and is being held at St. Louis County Jail on a felony charge of first-degree arson. The Duluth News Tribune does not generally name suspects who have not yet been charged but did so due to the high profile nature of the crime.
The city of Duluth held a Sunday morning news conference regarding the arrest of Adas Israel Synagogue fire suspect and fire investigation. Duluth police Cheif Mike Tusken said it is not believed at this time to be a hate crime but stressed "this is an open and ongoing investigation."
Tusken laid out the timeline of events during the news conference Sunday morning. Firefighters were called to the synagogue at 2:23 a.m. Monday on a report of a fire in an outbuilding.
News of the synagogue burning to the ground has spread throughout the world and drawn lots of attention on social media.
A large and intense investigation into the cause of the fire has stretched through the week, drawing on an estimated 20 investigators with the Duluth police and fire departments, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That particular federal agency gets involved when a house of worship is burned.
Firefighters were called to the synagogue at 2:23 a.m., Monday. Suppression efforts inside the building were called off after the structure began to collapse. Authorities have held two news conferences in the wake of the fire, saying they'd identified new clues on Tuesday.
The Adas Israel Congregation synagogue is home to a "shul" of Modern Orthodox Jewish families. Built in 1901, the synagogue is the last of its kind in the Northland. To worship in the Modern Orthodox Jewish faith is to practice Jewish law while living out modern lives.
New York author Sarah Rose is a descendant of one of the synagogue's founders and told the News Tribune this week, "We hope it's not our worst nightmare."
Rose called Duluth her ancestral home. She visited relatives and the synagogue often on trips from her childhood home in Chicago.
The Jewish community in Duluth has dwindled since its historic roots. According to "Stories and Legacies of Some Jewish Immigrants to the Twin Ports," the late Bob Goldish wrote that Jews began to populate the Twin Ports in 1871, coming from mostly Germany and Eastern Europe. Their population grew to roughly 4,000 people and by the time of his writing in 2011 had fallen to under 1,000.
According to sources this week, Adas Israel Congregation was founded by Modern Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, some looking to avoid conscription into the army. Goldish wrote that conscription for Jewish boys, at that time and in that part of the world, could start at 14 or 15 years old and last for 25 years.
"Most were never seen again," he wrote in his nearly 100-page report, which was used as the basis of a lecture at the Duluth Art Institute.
The synagogue was home to roughly 40 families. Leaders have said the shul faces an uncertain future without its place of worship.