Watch CBS News

Congregation Returns To Upper East Side Synagogue Destroyed By 2011 Fire

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- For the first time since their synagogue was destroyed by a fire four years ago, members of an Upper East Side congregation returned to their house of worship.

"Yesterday, I almost cried when I stood in the pulpit for the first time in over four years," Rabbi Haskel Lookstein told CBS2's Mark Morgan.

The emotional moment came in a re-dedication ceremony at Kehilath Jeshurun. It was the end of a long journey for Rabbi Lookstein and his congregation. Their historic synagogue, built in 1901, was devastated by fire in July of 2011.

Lookstein, who has been Senior Rabbi since taking over for his father in 1979, showed CBS2's Morgan the reconstructed synagogue with its beautiful stained glass windows and soaring ceiling, as workers continued to put the final touches on the benches.

As Rabbi Lookstein demonstrated, the new synagogue is sturdier for dancing as well.

"Now we can stomp, it's concrete," he said.

The reconstruction also includes a new chapel, library, and gymnasium. The Ramaz school has been rebuilt in the new, main building.

Despite the severity of the fire the exterior of the synagogue was not destroyed by the flames, and that was critical to the reconstruction process.

"We were able to rebuild from the inside without letting the walls collapse, and therefore we could rebuild the whole synagogue," Lookstein said.

Bob and Surie Sugaerman have been attending services at the synagogue for 25 years.

"It's overwhelming. It's very exciting, it's very moving, it's very special," Surie said.

With Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year, beginning Sunday at sundown the congregation has come home just in time.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.