Congregants from Destroyed Shul Get Help from Nearby Yeshiva
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Congregants from Destroyed Shul Get Help from Nearby Yeshiva

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The 500 to 600 congregants of a Brooklyn synagogue vandalized and destroyed by arsonists have been given the use of a nearby yeshiva for worship on Yom Kippur, but the synagogue’s rabbi has no idea when the charred building can be repaired.

“It will take months. The damage was extensive,” Rabbi Hillel David told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by telephone Monday. He could offer no estimate of the cost.

The bearded, Orthodox rabbi sounded emotionally drained a day after the funeral for the synagogue’s six Torahs.

The Torahs had been pulled from the Ark. rolled out on the floor, and set on fire early Saturday morning.

Intruders broke into the synagogue, located in the heavily-Jewish Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, and spray-painted a dozen swastikas on the inside walls of the synagogue.

Jewish tradition requires that desecrated Torah scrolls must be placed in a coffin and buried in a cemetery, as if they were a deceased person.

Nearly 10,000 grieving Jews attended the emotionally charged funeral procession that packed Brooklyn streets, creating major traffic jams. The burial was at Floral Park Cemetery in Deans, New Jersey.

Among the mourners were Mayor Edward Koch of New York, New York’s senior senator Patrick Moynihan, City Council President Andrew Stein, Controller Harrison Goldin and Bronx Borough President Howard Golden.

The ferocity of the attack on Congregation Rabbinical Institute Sharai Torah, occurring between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the most solemn period on the Jewish calender, shocked not only the Jewish community but the city at large.


It drew messages of sympathy from leaders of many faiths.

Cardinal John O’Connor, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, described his reaction.

“Horrible, absolutely horrible. When I picked up the paper and read the news, my blood ran cold,” O’Connor told reporters after Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday.

Referring to two youngsters, aged 12 and 15, who were taken into custody Sunday on suspicion of the crime, the cardinal asked, “Where are these children getting that kind of hatred?”

Police have withheld the identity of the suspects because of their age. They were released in custody of their parents pending an appearance at family court.

One was described as Italian, and the other Italian-Hispanic.

David could not predict when his shul would be functioning again. He said it couldn’t possibly be ready for the Succoth holiday, which begins September 26.

On Kol Nidrei night Tuesday, David will conduct services at facilities provided by Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, which recently completed a new building and offered its old one, David explained.

But he said he had no idea how his congregation will replace the destroyed Torahs. Each was valued at about $25,000. “We’ll ask for help, for donations,” the rabbi said.

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