Thornhill rabbi’s family loses everything in Yom Kippur fire

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WATCH ABOVE: A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Rabbi Yitzhak Hakak after his home caught fire during Yom Kippur. – Oct 11, 2019

Rabbi Yitzhak Hakak and his family went to synagogue to observe the most important Jewish holiday of the year on Tuesday and when they arrived home, they found their house on fire.

“We saw all the fire trucks driving and we thought it was a big mess somewhere but we never imagined this was our family’s house,” said Hakak through a Hebrew translator.

Hakak, who leads the Tehilat Yerushalayim Congregation inside the Bernard Betel Centre, said his son Moshe was first to arrive back at the home on Crestwood Road where the family has been renting since moving to Toronto a year ago. It was about 9 p.m. after the Yom Kippur service ended.

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“We come back from synagogue, me and my friends, and then we hear something from inside. Then we run to see what happened and we see inside the smoke,” explained Moshe.

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Because the family is orthodox and does not use cellphones on Jewish holidays, Moshe said he ran to the neighbours’ house and asked them to call 911.

By the time the fire department arrived, Vaughan fire chief Deryn Rizzi said, “there were flames coming out of the living room window.”

“The smoke detectors were going off. The fire had originated on the main floor.”

Hakak arrived back at the large two-storey home about 90 minutes after his son, wife and other six children arrived and said he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“It was shock. I didn’t know what to do. The first thing I checked was everybody OK,” Hakak said as he walked through the charred remains of the home.

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“We were afraid that somebody’s in the house. Thank God that the fire didn’t hurt anyone. That’s the most important thing, the family.”

Hakak, his wife and their seven children aged seven through 20 moved to Toronto from Las Vegas.

The fire destroyed almost all their personal possessions, including prayer books, photographs, clothing and toys. The charred remains of an antique table also sit in the dining room and framed pictures that are covered in black spot.

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Hakak said that the fire is also a loss for some members of the Sephardic community who gathered at the home to study and socialize.

A GoFundMe crowdfunding page was set up by members of the Jewish community to help the family rebuild.

Hakak said he’s grateful to everyone who has reached out to him and his family since Tuesday and says everything can be replaced.

“Thank God this is only a house, and not people’s lives,” Hakak said.

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