Four-alarm fire ravages Manhattan synagogue

Firefighters battled a four alarm fire at a synagogue in Manhattan that covered a large swath of the Upper East Side in smoke.

Firefighters battled a four alarm fire at a synagogue in Manhattan that covered a large swath of the Upper East Side in smoke.

About 170 firefighters responded to the blaze which began at about 8:30 p.m. Monday at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Synagogue on East 85th Street between Lexington and Park avenues, according to a fire department spokesman.

The fire was declared under control just over an hour later. Fire Chief Robert Sweeney said about five firefighters suffered minor injuries. The synagogue's roof collapsed and there are concerns about the building's stability, said Sweeney, who added that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire appears to have started on the top floor and roof, said police spokesman Paul Browne. He said the synagogue had been under renovation since May 2 and was due to be completed in September. All religious articles had been removed prior to renovation, Browne said.

Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein said the synagogue dates back to 1901.

"We thank God that nobody was hurt," said Lookstein, adding that the congregation plans to rebuild.

The prominent rabbi married Donald Trump heiress Ivanka Trump and New York Observer publisher Jared Kushner. He also participated in President Barack Obama's inaugural interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Onlookers watched as firefighters fought the blaze from the front and rear of the building.

Kate Chiminec, 28, said the fire was so big that she could smell smoke wafting through her window 10 blocks north.

"The whole Upper East Side was covered in smoke," she said.

Miriam Feldstein, 50, a member of the congregation since 1984, said the modern Orthodox synagogue counts 1,100 families as members. She ran over when the fire broke out. There is a lower school next door and a middle school across the street.

"There were flames shooting out of the roof and the stained glass windows," she said. "In the scheme of things, there were no injuries and the Torahs were removed, but it's very sad."

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