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Orthodox Archives Partly Destroyed in Fire That Sweeps Agudath Israel

May 9, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Agudath Israel of America hopes to be able to reconstruct at least part of the National Orthodox Jewish Archives destroyed by a fire that swept through one floor of the organization’s national headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Friday morning, its president, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, said Sunday.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which gutted the 11th floor at 84 William Street. Sherer told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the New York fire marshal had confirmed that the fire was not of a suspicious nature and originated with a faulty electrical fixture.

Sherer estimated the damage to the office in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the archives were priceless, he said.

They contained thousands of documents and photographs relating to the Holocaust, Orthodox Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Europe and the activities of Orthodox Jews in the United States, before and during the Holocaust, to rescue Jews in Europe.

They were “a major repository of matters relating to an urgent time in history,” Sherer said. He said the fire destroyed 80 to 85 percent of the archives and what was not burned is waterlogged.

The waterlogged material can be restored by professionals, Sherer said. He said he hoped much of what was a total loss could be retrieved through appeals to scholars and others who have used the archives in the past.

He explained that many of the burned documents had been photocopied and that many books have been written based on material culled from the archives.

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