Power line sparks synagogue fire

August 11, 2009 3:02:47 PM PDT
Powerful storms took a devastating toll on a synagogue in Rockland County. Authorities say a fallen power line ignited the fire that heavily damaged the West Clarkstown Jewish Center.

  • SLIDES: Fire tears through local synagogue

    It's not the building. Not the material things that make members cry. It's what the building means, what it stands for and the memories created here.

    "It's a great temple. Big family. Everybody loves each other, supports each other. Now we're going to be here just to get through it and we will," Maxine Moskowitz said.

    The center has been in New City since 1939. It's home to 50 families.

    Manny and Celia Pensky have been here for more than 40 years. They watched their children and grandchildren grow up here.

    They stood by as the building went up in flames on Monday night. They say the timing couldn't be worse.

    "It's a very bad time for us. Right before Holy days for this to happen. I feel very sad," Manny Pensky said as he wept.

    In the middle of this disaster, there are three pieces of good news.

    No one was hurt.

    Firefighters were able to save torahs and prayer books.

    And the president of the Ruben Gelmen Hebrew Day School is welcoming members with open arms.

    "We offer it to them for their use so that this congregation does not miss a beat. They can hold their services there on Saturday. Next month we have the high holidays it would be a perfect temporary home for them until they can get back on their feet," Jeff Weinberger said.

    As firefighters continue to work and put out hot spots, members are wondering how long it will take them to come back home.


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