Rabbi saves four Torah scrolls from California flames

A RABBI dashed into a fire-threatened California synagogue to save its four Torah scrolls from the flames.

Rabbi Barry Diamond was called to Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks just after 3am to see fire surrounding the area.

"There's a hill right across the street from our temple - it was fully engulfed," he said. "And sparks were raining down onto our property."

But that didn't deter Rabbi Diamond, 56, from running into the synagogue to save his congregation's holiest objects.

He grabbed two of the congregation's Torah scrolls - one had survived the Holocaust, the other was dedicated only six months earlier.

He then ran in a second time and, with the help of the synagogue president, Sandy Greenstein, brought out the remaining two scrolls as well as the megilla scroll read on Purim.

"I was a cross between nervous and determined to get these out," the rabbi said. "Sometimes you just have to put your head down and do the work and worry about your feelings later."

Rabbi Diamond and his wife, as well as most of his congregants, have had to evacuate their homes. As far as he knows no one has been hurt, but the synagogue has sustained damage.

The fires hit the community at an especially trying time - only a day earlier, congregants learned that a deadly shooting at a nearby bar left 12 people dead.

Rabbi Diamond said two congregants were at the bar at the time of the shooting.

Elsewhere, it looked like a barmitzvah might have to be cancelled... until another synagogue came to the rescue.

Jace Kletter was planning to read from the Torah and then have a party at the Malibu Jewish Centre, the Reconstructionist congregation to which his family belongs. And then came an evacuation call.

While the family wondered whether Jace's barmitzvah could still take place, they got a call from their rabbi telling them that a different synagogue had offered to host the service and party.

The service was held at Kehillat Israel, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Pacific Palisades, which was hosting a barmitzvah of its own, so two services were held in adjacent rooms.

"A lot less people showed up," said Jace. "But it was still very meaningful."

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