TBS Fire Information

Social Hall Teardown

FireDonationButtonV4On Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m., February 15, 2014, a fire broke out in the kitchen in the Sanctuary building. This was not a small kitchen fire, but one that demolished the entry to the kitchen, the entire kitchen and the alcove into the Social Hall. The fire resulted in extreme smoke damage, spreading throughout the entire sanctuary building. We are fortunate that the Living Legacy Committee, including the campaign team and the construction team, were in place for the past two years. They are now working on the fire project, as well as the campus remodel. The following is our earnest attempt to answer your questions about the fire at Temple Beth Sholom. Please check back often for updates, available as we gather more information.


What happened?

On Saturday, February 15, a fire broke out in the kitchen and our fire alarm was activated around 6:00 am. The fire department responded shortly thereafter – finding the kitchen fully engulfed in flames.

What was the cause of the fire?

The investigators’ reports indicate that a commercial freezer malfunctioned and caused the freezer to overheat, setting the kitchen floor and walls on fire. The Orange County Fire Authority and the FBI conducted investigations and concluded that no arson or criminal activity was involved.

How extensive is the damage?

The fire damage was centered in the kitchen and small adjacent portions of the social hall – but intense smoke and water damage resulted in a complete loss to most of the sanctuary building.

The fire department accompanied TBS individuals into the sanctuary during the fire to rescue our six Torah scrolls. The scrolls suffered severe smoke damage and are currently being evaluated. We are awaiting the report from the expert Sofer (Torah scribe). The Torah mantels and binders were given to the restoration company to attempt to repair them. However, it may be that the smoke damage will be too extensive to fully repair them.

The ark has sustained major smoke damage.

The kitchen is a total loss and will need to be reconstructed from the ground up. The roof sustained damage where the fire department opened up sections to allow the smoke to escape. Repair work was done before the rains, and it is unclear at this time whether the roof will need to be replaced.

The school building was undamaged by the fire, but there was a loss of power to the school building as a result of the damage to the sanctuary building. Air quality testing, HVAC inspection and maintenance were done in the school building to check for contaminates by smoke and particulates prior to occupancy and commencement of our school programs one week after the fire.

All Shabbat and High Holy Days prayer books suffered major smoke damage and are unusable. They will be taken to the g’niza, for burial in a cemetery, as is the custom when holy books are no longer usable. We purchased new prayerbooks, Mishkan T’fillah, to begin using in the weeks ahead. Mishkan HaNefesh, the new Machzor for the High Holy Days will not be available until 2015, but our order has been placed. For 2014, we will inquire about borrowing books from other congregations.

Our Ner Tamid, the eternal light over the ark, continues to be a beacon of hope. While it is solar powered, even during the days that we had no power to the building, the eternal light still shone.

The Administrative office contents have been removed by the restoration company for cleaning and storage. We hope that all of the furniture, files, supplies and books, including the Rabbi’s library, will be restored. However, the extent of the permanent damage is unclear at this point

Our gift shop contents are a total loss, and insurance will pay for the replacement of all inventory, fixtures, cash register, and cleaning/renovation as needed. Lost business revenue will be covered by insurance.

The social hall and storeroom are complete losses and will be rebuilt.

The lobby and foyer contents are complete losses and will be rebuilt.

The bathrooms will be cleaned and renovated.

The Board Room will be renovated.

The electrical wiring has been compromised and will be replaced.

The telephone system has been compromised and will be replaced. Our Temple phone numbers were redirected to an outside voicemail system.

The Temple’s email system and Internet connectivity became unavailable immediately after the loss of power. Our email and file servers have been relocated to another facility and are operational. All computers in the main office building have been replaced and are currently being configured.

Water service was initially shut down due to leaks from the fire, but it has been restored.

The Security system and cameras have been restored and enhanced.

Which facilities and services are open and which are closed?


The school building is open.


The sanctuary building is closed for restoration.

The social hall is closed for restoration

All events, social functions, classes and services planned in the sanctuary building will be relocated to other venues.

The Gift Shop is closed until further notice.


How are religious services impacted?

Temple Religious Services

For the first few Shabbatot after the fire, we were blessed to join area congregations to share in their Shabbat services. Starting March 14 we will have most of our Shabbat services at the Latter Day Saints Community Center (LDS), 674 S. Yorba Street, in Orange. We are extremely grateful to them for making their facility available to us for this next year.

B’nai Mitzvahs

Most of our services will be at the LDS community center, unless their schedule does not allow. Rabbi Cohen has been working closely with all of the B’nai mitzvah families for this coming year to ensure that they have meaningful celebrations.


Our Confirmation Shabbat service will most likely be at the LDS community center. Rabbi Cohen is working closely with the confirmation students and their families.


All weddings scheduled in the coming year were previously planned to be off site.

Social Hall Celebrations and Events

All events in the social hall have been moved to other locations.

French American School (FAS)

FAS classes have resumed at Temple Beth Sholom.

Mitzvah Meals

Mitzvah Meals has been relocated to the Parties by Panache kitchen located at 2808 E. Imperial Highway, Brea, CA. The weekly feeding project has continued without interruption.

Religious School:

Religious school was not affected by the damage to the main building. All classes are taking place in the religious school building.

Adult Education:

Most adult education classes will be held in the religious school building. Some classes are being moved off site to people’s homes, parks, and other outside facilities.


After being closed for the first week after the fire, preschool returned to their regularly scheduled programs and classrooms.

Introduction to Judaism Classes

Classes will continue on Monday evenings in a classroom in our religious school building.


Currently bingo is on hiatus and lost revenue will be covered by our business interruption insurance. Consideration to temporarily relocate bingo is being explored.

Camp Sholom

No interruption of programming is anticipated for the coming summer. We are looking forward to a successful camp season.

Sisterhood/Brotherhood events

We will continue to inform congregants of the location of future Sisterhood and Brotherhood events.

When do we expect to be up and fully operational again?

We are doing our best to fully operate religiously and programmatically. Our architects, construction manager and general contractor are working with the Living Legacy Core Committee to expedite rebuilding as soon as possible.


How do I communicate with the Temple office staff?

The staff will be accessible via phone and email. You are welcome to visit us in the temporary, portable office building that will be located in the north parking lot. We hope to have the portable building operational in one to two weeks, following city permit approval.

Where do I send Temple mail and email?

Mail and package delivery service have resumed to our Temple address.


Does the Temple have insurance?

Yes, the Temple has insurance.


FireDonationButtonWho is in charge of working with the insurance company and restoration company?

Susie Amster, Executive Director, is interfacing with the insurance company, along with our Living Legacy Core Committee, construction professionals, attorneys, and members of our Board of Directors.

The architects, construction manager, and general contractor hired for the Living Legacy project have been called to orchestrate the restoration of the sanctuary building.

How can I help?

During this difficult time, congregants are encouraged to volunteer their time on committees and support TBS events to bring our community closer. An emergency Fire Fund has been established, and donations may be made through the TBS website at www.tbsoc.com or by calling the Temple office at 714-628-4600. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Where can I get more information?

A Town Hall meeting is being scheduled for Friday, March 14 after Shabbat Services at the LDS church, 674 S. Yorba St. in Orange. Representatives from the Living Legacy Committee, as well as our construction professionals, will be present.

If you are unable to attend the meeting, please check the Temple website at www.tbsoc.com or email questions to samster@tbs-oc.org or rabbicohen@tbs-oc.org. Mail should be sent to: Temple Beth Sholom,

2625 N. Tustin Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92705 or phone calls to 714-628-4600.