Fire Tears Through High-Profile Manhattan Synagogue

By Forward Staff

Published July 11, 2011.

A four-alarm fire Thursday night engulfed Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, a large and high-profile Modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Five firefighters sustained minor injuries fighting the blaze, which sent flames and billowing black smoke into the night sky. The fire was reported around 8:30 p.m. and was contained about an hour later, the Associated Press is reporting. A police spokesman told the AP that the fire broke out on the building’s top floor and on its roof, ultimately causing the roof to collapse.

No synagogue staff or congregants were hurt, and no Torahs were damaged in the fire, according to press reports.

“You can cry over the loss, which is a very, very real thing,” the congregation’s longtime spiritual leader, Haskel Lookstein told the website DNAinfo.com. “But the most important thing to do in the face of something like this is to ask yourself, ‘how do we respond? Now, what do you do when you have just had a loss?’”

He went on to say that he has complete faith that the 139-year-old congregation, widely known as KJ, would rally to rebuild what was lost in the fire.

The 110-year-old synagogue building had been undergoing renovations since May; the work was to have been completed by this fall.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.



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