Fire At Historic Lower East Side Synagogue Was Deliberately Set, Police Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police believe a fire that destroyed an abandoned lower East Side synagogue that once housed the city’s oldest Orthodox Jewish congregation was deliberately set.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Tuesday police were reviewing surveillance video showing several teens fleeing the area at the time of the blaze around 7 p.m. Sunday.

It took firefighters about two hours to bring the fire at the former Beth Hamedrash Hagodol synagogue on Norfolk Street near Broome Street under control. No injuries were reported.

The Gothic structure was originally built in 1850 as a Baptist church. It was home to Beth Hamedrash Hagodol for over 120 until the congregation closed in 2007.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-1st) said it was the first synagogue in the city to serve Eastern European Jews.

Some advocated for the empty structure to be torn down while other groups, including one on Facebook, wanted to save it with some pushing for a major multi-million dollar fundraising campaign to restore the building in need of repair.

The rabbi of the synagogue told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport Tuesday that he was in the middle of plans to renovate and restore the congregation, but after the fire, he said that was in doubt.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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