Fire rips through Historic New Brunswick synagogue
A fire late Friday afternoon ripped through the historic Congregation Poile Zedek synagogue in New Brunswick.
Flames broke out around 4:20 p.m, and firefighters found smoke in several spots around the building on Neilson Street in downtown New Brunswick, with flames coming from the roof shortly after they arrived, according to the city fire department.
Adjacent buildings were evacuated as a precaution and no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is not yet known according to fire officials.
Longtime Rabbi Abraham Mykoff ran into the synagogue as the flames spread, and managed to rescue the Sefer Torah, according to MyCentralJersey.com, He was unable to get other Torahs out before the roof collapsed.
New Brunswick Fire Director Robert Rawls tells ABC 7 that shortly after firefighters arrived, the building became fully engulfed in flames, which he said is common in a building like the synagogue.
"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 said. He said the synagogue's caretaker was inside the building on Neilson Street in downtown New Brunswick and heard some bangs and fire on the first floor.
“The synagogue was built probably around 1924," New Brunswick Councilman John Anderson told MyCentralJersey.com. "It’s really been here all this time doing a lot of work for the community. It’s devastating for the city of New Brunswick and the community."
Built in 1923, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, according to the synagogue's website, with about 100 families belonging to the synagogue. The building is located in what used to be known as the Hiram Market district and has withstood development over the years according to New Brunswick Today.