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Rabbi Rescues Torah Inside His Burning Shul

A fundraising campaign has begun to help rebuild New Brunswick’s Congregation Poile Zedek

Tess Cutler
October 26, 2015

A historic synagogue in New Brunswick, New Jersey, was reduced to a charred edifice on Friday after a devastating fire ravaged the nearly century-old building. But not everything was lost. During the blaze, Rabbi Abraham Mykoff, the rabbi at Congregation Poile Zedek, stormed into the burning shul to rescue a Sefer Torah in a miraculous display of James Bondian devotion. After retrieving the first scroll, Mykoff reportedly said that the ceiling immediately collapsed behind him.

Although the shul has been vandalized in the past, the exact cause of the fire remains to be identified.

The congregation was founded in 1901 by Russian and Polish immigrants. Twenty two years later, they built the synagogue, which was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Today, Congregation Poile Zedek is comprised of about 100 families. Ari Goldring, who celebrated his bar mitzvah at the shul ten years prior is still mentally processing the damage done to the sanctuary. “It was such a beautiful building and it’s now all gone,” he told ABC 7, a local news channel. “I’m kind of numb.”

To rebuild, Congregation Poile Zedek, which, roughly translated, means “doers of righteousness,” has started a fundraising campaign.

Tess Cutler is an intern at Tablet.