A massive fire ripped through the historic Congregation Poile Zedek synagogue in New Brunswick, N.J. late Friday afternoon. Officials report one sacred scroll was saved from the flames.
The fire began around 4:20 p.m., and firefighters discovered patches of smoke in several places around the sacred building, New Jersey 101.5 reports. Shortly after firefighters arrived on the scene, flames started shooting through the roof, according to the city fire department.
New Brunswick Fire Director Robert Rawls told ABC 7 that the building quickly became engulfed in flames and that the situation was not uncommon for buildings like synagogues. “They have large structural members, a lot of open space, and usually nobody’s really there when the fire starts. So it’s something that happens often,” Rawls explained.
A person who takes care of the synagogue was inside the building in downtown New Brunswick and heard some banging on the first floor. That is when the fire was discovered.
Soon, nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution, and no injuries were reported. The firefighters are still unsure of what caused the fire.
Rabbi Abraham Mykoff allegedly ran into the synagogue as the flames were gaining strength to rescue the Sefer Torah. He was successful, according to MyCentralJersey.com. Unfortunately, he could not retrieve other Torahs before the roof fell in.
New Brunswick Councilman John Anderson said the loss of the synagogue is “devastating” for the city and community. “The synagogue was built probably around 1924,” he said. “It’s really been here all this time doing a lot of work for the community.”
According to the congregation’s website, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Roughly 100 families belong to the synagogue.
New Brunswick Today reports that the building is located in what is known as the Hiram Market district and has been developed over the years.