Great Synagogue of Harbin Completely Destroyed by Fire

The Great Synagogue in Artillery Street, Harbin, built 25 years ago, immediately after the Russo-Japanese War, was destroyed by fire which started in the upper part of the structure and spread repidly, leaving only the bare skeleton of the four walls standing. Jews from all parts of the city rushed to the synagogue to save the Scrolls of the Law and the sacred books, nearly all of which were rescued.

All of the three fire brigades of the city were called out, and while eleven firemen were in the upper part of the building, fighting the flames, the entire upper part collapsed, carrying them down with it. Jews rushed in at the risk of their lives and dragged the firemen from the burning debris. Two firemen, both Chinese, were brought out dead, having been crushed by the fall. M. Reznitchenko, vice-commandant of the first fire brigade, is in the hospital with concussion of the brain, a Chinese fireman of the second brigade is on the point of death, and four have sustained serious injuries.

Investigation into the cause of the fire has established that the upper part of the structure had been unsafe, and if the fire had not occurred it would have collapsed before long, quite possibly duringservices, while the synagogue was packed with worshippers.

The entire city has been stirred by the event. The fire is believed to have been started by a fuse in the electric installation situated under the dome of the synagogue. There was a large pile of loose pages and fragments of sacred Hebrew volumes there, ready for the customary interment in the cemetery, and this provided fuel for the conflagration. The Great Synagogue was built when Jewish settlement in Harbin and Manchuria first began. It was a monumental structure and considered one of the firnest synagogues in the Far East. It contained much costly interior equipment and was provided with the most modern furnishings, including central heating and electric lighting. It maintained a permanent rabbi, and a large choir.

The synagogue was insured for 50,000 gold yen ($30,000). There are four other synagogues in the city.

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