Los Angeles Jewish institutions close as Skirball fire threatens


(JTA) — Los Angeles-area synagogues and Jewish institutions closed in the wake of a major fire, dubbed the Skirball Fire after the Jewish cultural center that is in its path.

Leo Baeck Temple, Stephen Wise Temple, American Jewish University’s Familian Campus and the Skirball Cultural Center all were closed due to the fire, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported. The institutions’ Torah scrolls were removed for safekeeping, according to the report.

The Skirball Fire is one of several fires burning in southern California since Monday. The other fires are known as the Thomas, Rye and Creek fires burning in Ventura County, Santa Clarita and Sylmar.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local state of emergency in response to the Skirball Fire, requesting state and federal assistance. California Gov. Jerry Brown also declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The fire also caused the closing of the Los Angeles Eruv, which uses fences and phone lines affected by the fire to define the public area needed to allow Orthodox Jews to carry items outdoors on Shabbat, according to the Jewish Journal.

The Skirball Center noted in a post on Facebook that although the fire has been dubbed the Skirball Fire, the center has not sustained any damage. The center is closed until further notice and said it would refund ticket purchases. The Getty Museum also is threatened by the blaze.

The Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue located in Encino, California, is housing the Torah scrolls from  Leo Baeck Temple, Stephen Wise Temple and Milken Community Schools, about 25 in all, until the danger is past.

The University of California, Los Angeles announced that classes would be cancelled on Thursday due to the campus’ proximity to the fire. UCLA finals are scheduled to start on Saturday.

More than 230,000 people have had to leave their homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The 405 Freeway, a major commuting highway, also has been closed. The fires have been exacerbated by high winds.

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