Four-Alarm Fire Rips Through Upper East Side Synagogue

A four-alarm blaze ripped through a synagogue on the Upper East Side Monday night.

The fast-moving fire was first reported to the FDNY at about 8:30 p.m. at the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun at 125 East 85 St., between Lexington and Park avenues.  No Torah scrolls were in the building at the time of the blaze.

A photo tweeted by the FDNY showed a powerful fire that had reached the synagogue's roof.  The blaze was brought under control shortly before 10 p.m., according to the FDNY.

According to the synagogue's website, it is a modern Orthodox synagogue founded in 1872. 

Onlookers watched as firefighters fought the blaze from the front and rear of the building.

Kate Chiminec, 28, said the fire was so big that she could smell smoke wafting through her window 10 blocks north.

"The whole Upper East Side was covered in smoke," she said.

Miriam Feldstein, 50, a member of the congregation since 1984, ran over when the fire broke out.

She said the modern Orthodox synagogue counts 1,100 families as members. There is a lower school next door and a middle school across the street.

"There were flames shooting out of the roof and the stained glass windows," she said. "In the scheme of things, there were no injuries and the Torahs were removed, but it's very sad."

Renovations were underway on the facade of the building. A police spokesman says the fire appears to have started on the top floor and roof. Authorities later said the majority of the roof had burned through and collapsed.

About 40 fire units and 170 FDNY personnel battled the blaze, officials said. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. The cause of the fire had not yet been determined. Fire marshals were investigating the cause.

"We thank God that nobody was hurt," said Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, adding that the congregation plans to rebuild.

The prominent rabbi married Donald Trump heiress Ivanka Trump and New York Observer publisher Jared Kushner. He also participated in President Barack Obama's inaugural interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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