4-Alarm Fire Rips Through Kehilath Jeshurun Synagogue On Upper East Side

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.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Hazel Sanchez
  • Emily

    Did they get the scrolls out?

  • AirCavRick

    May God bless this congregation and help them rebuild their synagogue.

  • Paul Willson

    May the Almighty be with this congregation at this time of having to rebuild
    My church burnt 50 years ago and rebuilt .

  • LG

    The PLO did it…

  • bbones

    Why is it everyone assumes someone torched this place? seriously people, it was built in the 18oo’s. It is VERY POSSIBLE that it was wiring, or something like that. Maybe if you focused more on why you have so much hate in your heart, and tried some repentance your life would be much happier and productive.

    • Steph

      Whoa thar partner, I don’t think there are that many negative comments. Don’t go all religious with folks, or are you being touchy because of something going on in your own life?

      Because of the way these comment things run, people feel they can say whatever they want with no repercussions. Let em. There are enough good people responding that the morons are in the minority.

    • Michelle

      umm…almost all of nyc was built prior to this synagogue….and i dont think nyc is up in flames

  • Gerald Waldman

    You anti-semites always get it wrong. Jews have a tradition of “Tsedakah” (charity). You always claim your telling the “truth” but you wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and bit you on the a$$, just the lies spread about Jews by the anti-semites, Nazis, skinheads and the KKK!

    • mike allie

      jews only help jews … no one else That’s charity for yah..

      • Bluebird

        so many ignorant responses here….check out history and you will find that the American Jewish community helps people all of the time…and not only people of their faith, please note I am an Atheist and have no bias. During the era of Civil Rights the Jews were an integral part of our journey. Please people use your brains…and the library… before you speak, you are making fools of yourselves, pure and simple…why are you so full of negativity? Do YOU help others in trouble…do YOU give your money to charity every month..do YOU care about all people…?

      • Steph

        Horse puckey mike allie-the Jewish Community in my city are extremely active in the local community and don’t care what faith background folks have. Just like many Christian communities, there are good and bad. don’t label all people with the lack of charity you seem to have for some.

        Remember, in a group of geniuses, you are a moron!!

      • Bruce B

        It really is amazing that someone would say Jews only hep Jews. Only a hateful person would make a statement so wrong. Good people of all religions help people of all religions. Do Jews look to help Jews, sure. So do Catholics and others too. That said, I wish non Jews would read some of these and enter a comment or tow telling the haters here of their knowledge of Jews helping them. I’m sure there are many that can add a good comment. Let’s show the haters here and elsewhere that Jews look to do the right thing often!

  • Jerry Friedman

    I went to school there in the early 60’s
    It is a place of fond memories, and will be rebuilt, (IEH) with the help of G-d.
    Rabbi Lookstein and the Congregation will surmount all obstacles and restore a primary anchor of Judaism in New York City, and, especially, Manhattan.

    I was in Sixth Grade, in the Lower School, right next door to the Sanctuary, and Mr. Friedlander came in to our class on Friday, November 22nd, 1963, and told us to get ready to go home immediately, because President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, and he (rightly so) feared a Coup d’etat.

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