May 17, 2017
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Police arrested a 14-year-old boy on Wednesday on an arson charge and were looking for possible accomplices after a fire gutted an abandoned historic synagogue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, authorities said.
The blaze on Sunday destroyed the roof and some walls of the former Beth Hamedrash Hagodol synagogue. The building was once home to one of the oldest Orthodox Jewish congregations in the United States, according to records from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Police did not release the boy’s name because of his age. Detectives said surveillance video footage showed three young people leaving the building shortly before the fire broke out.
It was not immediately clear whether the 14-year-old, who is being held at a juvenile detention center, was among those seen in the video, said Martin Brown, a New York Police Department spokesman.
The synagogue, built in the Gothic Revival style, opened in 1850 as a Baptist church, according to city records.
In 1885, it was acquired by the Beth Hamedrash Hagodol congregation, made up of Eastern European immigrants, and converted into a synagogue at a time when the crowded neighborhood was becoming the heart of the immigrant Jewish community in the United States. Dwindling attendance led to its closure in 2007, according to news reports.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
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