NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was an unbelievable sight as massive flames shot out of the roof of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Synagogue at East 85th Street and Lexington Avenue on Monday night.
Firefighters battled the four-alarm fire and got it under control around 9:50 p.m. An FDNY spokesman said about 170 firefighters responded to the fire, which started at around 8:30 p.m.
Buildings next to the synagogue were evacuated. Members watched helplessly in horror.
“It’s terribly painful. It’s like watching a member of the family being injured,” Brenda Bernstein told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Lee Stahl witnessed the blaze and captured some amazing video with his phone.
1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon spoke to members of the synagogue about the raging fire.
“The flames are unbelievable. I mean it went right through the building. It went right through all the floors. You could see the flames right through the stained glass,” he said.
“My brother called me and he told me to get out. I had no clue what’s happening. I immediately just ran out and I saw what was happening and I was shocked,” Avery Brown said.
Fire Chief Robert Sweeney said that the majority of the roof had collapsed.
“We have structural concerns of the building at this present time. We’re still maintaining an exterior presence,” he said.
The synagogue was built in 1872. It was empty and undergoing renovations since May and was set to be completed by the holy days in September.
All religious articles had been removed before the construction. The rabbi and life-long members were devastated to see the destruction.
“I have complete faith that our community, which is 140 years old, will respond. We will rebuild whatever has been lost and with God’s help. We’ll go on,” Rabbi Haskil Lookstein said.
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