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Historic New York City Temple Burns Down

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, a 167-year-old Lower East Side landmark, has been destroyed

Jonathan Zalman
May 15, 2017
The aftermath of the fire that ravaged Beth Hamedrash Hagodol on May 14, 2017.Facebook
The aftermath of the fire that ravaged Beth Hamedrash Hagodol on May 14, 2017.Facebook

On Sunday night a 3-alarm fire destroyed Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue, a landmark shul—which has been unused and neglected for a decade—on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The fire, which is believed to have begun from the inside, ravaged the interior of the dilapidated temple, and razed to the ground much of the Gothic Revival structure that has been a neighborhood and Jewish landmark since it was built at 60 Norfolk St. in 1850. Nobody was injured, reported The Lo-Down, an LES blog. And because it has been abandoned for a decade, no Torah scrolls were lost either.

The keepers of the 167-year-old shul, which has been empty and more or less rotting away since 2007, when the congregation dwindled to 15 members, have made efforts, alongside local and national preservation groups, to repair and maintain the building’s gorgeous architecture. Demolition has also been considered, in part to make way for a new residential building, many of which are popping up all over that area of the Lower East Side. Reported TLD: “The now charred and gutted synagogue, of course, sits right in the middle of the Essex Crossing development site. As a vacant parcel, it would be worth many millions.”

MANHATTAN: JUST IN: Firefighters are battling a massive fire at Bais Medrash HaGadol Shul on Lower East Side. No injuries reported. PHOTO:

— KolHaolam (@KolHaolam) May 14, 2017

Aerial view of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol ruins. Photo by Photo by Cindy Maisonave.

— The Lo-Down (@LoDownNY) May 15, 2017

Horrific fire at Temple Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in the lower east side. Terrifying. I’m praying no one was hurt.

— RTobison (@RTobison) May 15, 2017

More images here.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.