MONSEY, N.Y. – Authorities are investigating a suspicious fire that destroyed the synagogue of an anti-Zionist Jewish group that had been heavily criticized for attending a conference in Iran last year where participants debated the Holocaust.
No one was injured in Sunday night's fire. A senior Neturei Karta rabbi and his family, who lived on the top floor of the three-story structure in Monsey, N.Y., were not home.
"It may in the future be found to be accidental, but at this time we're treating it as a suspicious fire and we're investigating it as such," said Sgt. Daniel Hyman of the Ramapo Police Department, which serves the suburban Rockland County community of Monsey, about 35 miles north of New York City.
The Neturei Karta has been the target of threats in the past because of its involvement in the anti-Zionism movement. The group does not dispute that the Holocaust occurred, said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta.
"There's no question that the issue is to stifle the opposition to Zionism," Weiss said of after the fire. "Anybody who would like to reveal to the world their opposition to this political, national movement of Zionism is attacked."
The fire was reported in a kitchen area shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday, one day before the start to the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover.
When firefighters arrived, one side of the house was engulfed in flames and power lines had come down, Monsey Fire Chief Douglas Perry said. He said the building was destroyed.
Neturei Karta doesn't recognize the existence or authority of Israel, arguing that a sovereign Jewish state is contrary to Jewish law.
The group drew protests after about five members traveled to Tehran in December for a two-day conference convened to debate whether the Holocaust occurred. Some were photographed meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the Holocaust a "myth." After the group returned, a large protest made up mostly of other Jews opposing their anti-Zionist views was held outside the Monsey synagogue.