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Pa. Synagogue Fire Called Arson

October 9, 2000

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ An arson blaze gutted two stories of a building at a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

The fire began around 4 a.m. Monday in the Beth El Temple’s three-story school building. No one was injured.

The blaze was confined to the school building and a small sanctuary next door. The complex’s main sanctuary was not damaged.

Brian Denning, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, ruled out an accidental fire because the building, which was under construction, had no electrical system and no heat-producing sources.

Fire Chief Donald Konkle said there are no suspects, and the department is ``considering the possibility that this was a hate crime.″

``If it is true that someone did this on purpose, they have not dampened our Yom Kippur,″ said Ceria Mitchell, a member of the congregation. ``This building is just where we meet. We are the temple.″

The fire on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, came amid new hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. The violence has claimed 88 lives in the past two weeks.

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