Breaking: Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue on Norfolk Street is on Fire [Updated]

Posted on: May 14th, 2017 at 7:20 pm by

The Lower East Side is covered in smoke right now. Several readers are telling us that the historic synagogue on Norfolk Street – Beth Hamedrash Hagadol – is currently up in flames. The FDNY labeled it a 3-alarm fire. One eyewitness riding his bike along Delancey told us that he heard a “big explosion” followed quickly by the plume. We have yet to confirm this detail.

A smaller fire reportedly broke out in the building on May 7, but was extinguished.

UPDATE: the 3-alarm fire is under control as of 7:50pm. Thankfully, there were no injuries reported in the incident.

More as it develops. Drop us a line if you know what’s happening.

This is really fuckin’ sad. The historic Gothic Revival synagogue was built in 1850 as a Baptist church and purchased by the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol congregation in 1885 for $45,000 (about $1.2 million today). The New York City Landmarks Commission found that “Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue has a special character, special historical and aesthetic interest, and value as part of the development, heritage and cultural characteristics of New York City.”

This historic, religious edifice has been making headlines for some time now, mostly with regard to its preservation. The upkeep became too expensive for congregants. Moreover, even though it’s been protected since 1967, Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum had, at one point, petitioned the LPC to de-landmark the structure so that condominiums could be built instead. As a trade, a small synagogue would be built on the ground floor for the floundering congregation.

Guess that wish could conceivably come true…

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