Fire Guts Second Brooklyn Shul, but No Evidence of Arson Reported

A second synagogue in Brooklyn was gutted by fire early Saturday. But fire and police officials say there is no evidence of arson, though the possibility is being investigated.

Rabbi Solomon Friedman, 82, of Congregation Chuna David and his wife, Gizella, 80, were hospitalized for foot burns. They fled in their nightclothes from the living quarters on the second floor of the building that housed the synagogue.

The blaze was caused either by a short circuit, candles or a gas stove that was left burning overnight, according to Fire Marshal Denis Guardiano.

The 70-family Orthodox congregation is located on Ocean Parkway. It is about half a mile from Orthodox Congregation Rabbinical Institute Sharai Torah, which was vandalized and torched by arsonists during the early hours of Sept. 17.

Unlike the case in Sharai Torah, there was no evidence of break-in and no anti-Semitic graffiti at Chuna David. But some local Hasidim and other Orthodox Jews in the area refused to believe the two fires were coincidental.

City Councilman Noach Dear, who represents the district and is himself Orthodox, tried to reassure the doubters.

“Believe me, this was not a deliberate act. There was no forced entry into the building. There was nothing thrown into, the building,” said Dear, who is spearheading a rebuilding drive.

Rabbi Friedman and his wife were reported in stable condition Sunday at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

Friedman, a Holocaust survivor, heads a rabbinical dynasty that originated in Romania.

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