Teenager Set Manhattan Synagogue Ablaze, Police Say

Source: The New York Times


The Fire Department fighting the blaze Sunday evening at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, a historic Manhattan synagogue that closed in 2007. The building opened in 1850 as a Baptist church.CreditAndrew Gombert/European Pressphoto Agency

For eight generations in the life of a city that changed constantly around them, the twin towers on Norfolk Street beckoned the faithful on Manhattan’s Lower East Side: first, Baptists, whose congregation was the forerunner of the Riverside Church; then Methodists; and then, for 122 years, Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe, who called the synagogue Beth Hamedrash Hagodol — the Great House of Study.

Much of what remained of the 167-year-old building, a city landmark at 60-64 Norfolk Street, burned to the ground amid plumes of smoke on Sunday, and the police say a 14-year-old boy is responsible for the fire. No injuries were reported.

The boy, whose name the police withheld because he is being prosecuted as a juvenile, was taken into custody on a felony arson charge Tuesday at his home about a half-mile from the burned-out synagogue, the police said.

The boy appeared at Family Court in Manhattan on Wednesday, where the case was referred to the city’s Law Department, which prosecutes most cases involving children ages 7 to 15. He was then released to his parents and ordered to return to court on May 31, when prosecutors must outline what charges they intend to pursue against him.

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