‘It’s family’: Keneseth Israel congregation share memories after historic synagogue catches fire

‘It’s family’: Keneseth Israel congregation share memories after historic synagogue catches fire
Max Green grew up attending the Keneseth Israel synagogue on Floyd and Jacob Streets in Louisville. On Monday, he recalled the building fondly.
Max Green grew up attending the Keneseth Israel synagogue on Floyd and Jacob Streets in Louisville. On Monday, he recalled the building fondly. (Source: Courtesy: WAVE 3 News)
Louisville Fire arson investigators are still working to determine the cause of Saturday’s blaze at Keneseth Israel Synagogue.
Louisville Fire arson investigators are still working to determine the cause of Saturday’s blaze at Keneseth Israel Synagogue.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - When Max Green looks at Keneseth Israel Synagogue, he sees his home.

“I got my great grandparents, my grandparents and my parents,” Green said. “My father was bar mitzvah’ed there. My parents were married there. My brother was bar mitsvah’ed there.”

Green grew up going to that place of worship in the 1950s. He went to Sunday school there every week, even flew paper airplanes out of the balcony windows.

He said he has memories there that he still sees vividly.

“It’s family,” Green said. “It’s pure love. It’s nostalgia, but it’s nostalgia with an extra oomf.”

Rosalind Fishman shares Green’s nostalgia. The synagogue on Floyd and Jacob Streets was a staple of her childhood as well.

Though the Jewish community has not gathered in that building for 50 years, Fishman said there’s sentimental value still sitting in the building. Keneseth Israel relocated to Taylorsville Road in the 1970s.

“Oh, it feels terrible,” Fishman said. “It feels like [I’ve been] betrayed. I don’t know if it’s betrayed or I don’t know what happened, but I’d like to think it was not on purpose.”

Louisville Fire arson investigators are still working to determine the cause of Saturday’s blaze.

In roughly 48 hours, they learned the fire started near the roof in an area they can’t get to because of how unstable the structure of the building is. The structural issues are forcing them to rely on nearby surveillance video from businesses, aerial video and potentially witnesses who may have seen the fire ignite.

“The size of the building, the amount of fire that was burning in the building, the volume of water that was flowed on the building, all of those things and the significant damage that you have makes it more difficult for our investigators to get in there, get their hands on stuff, get their eyes on stuff,” LFD Major Bobby Cooper said.

Cooper said he is not certain whether the building will have to be torn down permanently.

Former congregants like Green and Fishman are hopeful the building, and its history, can be saved.

“Everything dies,” Green said. “Everything’s in the past eventually and maybe it’s time. I hope not. It’s a great building full of great energy, I believe. Synagogues, Jewish, Christian Churches it’s got a lot of God in it. It really is very Godly, if you will and I hope the building survives.”

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