Extensive Damage Caused by Arson to Sydney Shul on Kristallnacht

Sydney’s second-oldest synagogue was badly damaged by arson last week as Jews and Christians around the world were commemorating Kristallnacht.

The damage to the historic Newtown Synagogue in Sydney’s western suburbs was extensive, with one observer saying the synagogue had been “almost completely gutted.”

Although the heat of the fire was so great that a lamp on the bimah, or pulpit, was melted, the ark itself was not burnt and the six Torah scrolls escaped damage by a matter of inches.

Robert Klarnet, public affairs director for the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, said that it was “either a cruel coincidence or deliberate action” that the fire occurred 55 years to the day after Kristallnacht, the Nazi “Night of Broken Glass” that took place in Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938.

The fire is the most serious incident recorded by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry this year and the worst since early 1991, when five Sydney synagogues were damaged by arson attacks. Those perpetrators have not been apprehended.

The Newtown synagogue was refurbished and restored to its original state only four years ago.

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