A fire Tuesday afternoon destroyed the home of Rabbi Gabe Greenberg, of Congregation Beth Israel, though Greenberg and his family were not injured, the Jefferson Parish East Bank Consolidated Fire Department said Wednesday.
Chief Joe Greco said a call came in at 4:30 p.m. saying Greenberg’s oven had caught fire while self-cleaning. While the fire was under control within 15 minutes, the water, smoke and fire damage to the home and its contents was “substantial,” he said.
Greco said an investigation is underway to officially determine the cause of the fire at the home in the 4400 block of Cleary Avenue.
Beth Israel said on its Facebook page that Greenberg, the synagogue’s leader since June 2014, was in the backyard with his children when the fire started.
“Rebuilding will undoubtedly be a slow and painful process,” Bradley Bain, president of Congregation Beth Israel, wrote Tuesday night. “While the extent of the damage has yet to be fully assessed, we do know they will be temporarily uprooted and forever miss the heirlooms, sentimental objects and mementos consumed in today’s fire.”
Greenberg was apparently cleaning the oven in preparation for Passover, also known as Pesach, which begins Friday.
“I urge everyone to be diligent in our Pesach preparations, especially when it comes to the self-cleaning cycle of our ovens,” Bain wrote. “Tragedies such as this underscore how quickly our families’ safety and our homes can be put into jeopardy.”
Bain asked concerned friends and associates to contact the synagogue office and give Greenberg and his wife, Abby, space for the time being.
“We will endeavor to keep everyone informed of the situation but ask for now that calls and texts directly to the family remain limited. For those inquiring about financial assistance or contributions in kind to Rabbi Gabe and Abby, donations may be coordinated through Rabbi David in the synagogue office or made online.”
Bain thanked the Fire Department for its rapid response.
“We are especially thankful to the men and women of the Jefferson Parish Fire Department, who risked their own safety to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading to the neighboring houses,” he wrote.
Beth Israel, the oldest Orthodox congregation in the New Orleans area, is located on West Esplanade Avenue in Metairie.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.