More than 500 people on the front lawn of what had been a Chabad House of Miami Beach, Fla., Friday night for Shabbat services and a show of support for the synagogue that just days before had been found torched in an apparent arson.

For the services, community members donated chairs and tables, while a local kosher caterer provided finger foods for a celebratory Kiddush and dinner.

According to supporter Roger Abramson, the event proved that the center, directed by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Zev and Chani Katz, will return bigger and better than ever.

"It was heartwarming," he said, "how so many people from so many walks of life came to show support."

Katz was awakened early Tuesday morning last week with a phone call informing him that his synagogue, which houses a Hebrew school, was on fire. The night before, after the close of Passover services, he had made sure to turn off all the lights and air conditioning in the rented building. All candles had been extinguished.

After the blaze had been put out by fire crews, Katz discovered that the synagogue's Torah scroll had been taken out of its cabinet: It was found outside, the parchment torn from its rollers. The police and fire departments quickly began viewing the case as one of arson; the FBI joined the investigation late last week.

If determined to be of a criminal nature, the fire would be the second such case of a torched synagogue in the Miami area in six months.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist spoke about the fire in an interview with on Friday.

"It looks like it was intentional," he said. "This kind of crime, if it is proven to be that, would fall into the category of what we call a hate crime, because it happened against a particular group for a particular reason, in this case religious based."

For now, the synagogue's rabbi, who came to the area ten years ago with a mobile worship space known as a Mitzvah Tank, is focused on raising the necessary funds to rebuild. Friday night services and a dinner for 100 people this week will be held in a rented space nearby.

"We are looking to stop moving from place to place," said Katz.

Two rabbinical students are still driving the Mitzvah Tank through the city's streets, but Katz noted that it's hard for volunteers to prepare sandwiches for its weekly distributions of food to the homeless.

"We just need a kitchen," said the rabbi.

Thus far donations have poured in from as far away as Texas.

Meanwhile, community members scheduled a May 4 fundraiser for the Chabad House, with the goal of buying a new Torah scroll in time for the holiday of Shavuot, some six weeks away.

The Chabad House "is not just a place for those in the community to pray, but also home to the young minds of the Hebrew Academy," read an announcement written by Erica Farago, Marni Strumwasser and Melissa Groisman. "How fitting it is for us to come together as a community and use this upcoming Shavuot to celebrate the giving of a new Torah and a new beginning to" the Chabad House.

For her part, Chani Katz was adamant that the fire was just a challenge to be overcome.

"We're not giving up, not slowing down," she said. 'We're going to keep going."