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Roof Collapses At Historic Lower East Side Synagogue

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The fate of a 150-year-old Lower East Side synagogue hangs in the balance after its roof collapsed Sunday afternoon.

It's not yet known if the First Roumanian-American Congregation, once called the Cantors' Carnegie Hall, can be salvaged, but members are vowing to rebuild.



NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed this report.

Facing the synagogue that was for many a second home, congregants of the first Roumanian-American shul prayed Monday.

Standing in the rainy street, they asked for help repairing their synagogue whose roof partially caved in Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a sad day for the city of New York and for all people at large to see such a beautiful building fall,” said Rabbi Ari Spiegel.

Like a bad souffle, the synagogue's roof just collapsed. No one was inside at the time because the congregation has been worshipping in a different location since the beginning of December, when an independent contractor discovered water damage in the ceiling beams and predicted it would get worse. Around 4:00 Sunday afternoon, the roof gave way.

The damage looks extensive, but the rabbi says it'll be at least a few days before anyone knows just how much work has to be done.

“We don't know what the story is, and at this point it's going to be not just stabilization and clean up, but also somewhat discovering what is exactly the full extent of the condition," said contractor Solomon Rosenzweig.

As contractors assessed the damage, Rabbi Spiegel and his brothers - all rabbis - brought the temple's 15 torahs to their mother's apartment nearby.

That's where they've been holding services for the last five weeks, so under the circumstances, it was a natural home for the sacred scrolls.

“Our synagogue was our home. Our memories are there,” said Rabbi Gershon Spiegel. “My bar mitzvah was there, I got married there, my children's bar mitzvahs were there. To bring it into my home is just taking part of my home and bringing it into a smaller part of my home."

The Department of Buildings has evacuated the building next door and says the synagogue's fate will be determined by the congregants and their engineers.

“This congregation has served the community since the days Abraham Lincoln was the president of the United States. The congregation has seen many difficult days - as we all have - and has persevered, and we will persevere," said City Councilman Alan Gerson, an advocate and a congregant.

To that end, there is a community support fund accepting contributions to help reestablish and rebuild. Donations can be sent to:

89 Rivington Street
New York, N.Y. 10002

- Rebecca Spitz
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