The historic kehillah of New Brunswick, N.J., whose shul was destroyed in a massive fire, held an emotional levayah Sunday afternoon for the remains of its sifrei Torah and other sheimos.
Several local Rabbanim and politicians were on hand in front of the charred shell of the huge and once elaborate structure of Congregation Poile Zedek, as the community bid a tearful farewell to the nine sifrei Torah and approximately 40 bags of damaged sefarim. Volunteers from Misaskim conducted an intensive search for any remains that required burial and ensured that they were transported and interred in accordance with halachah.
“They [Misaskim] sifted through all the debris; it was a huge operation,” said Reuven Dorfman, executive director of Poile Zedek.
Following some brief speeches and the recitation of Tehillim, the sifrei Torah and sheimos were brought to the shul’s cemetery plot for kevurah.
“The parashah tells of the fight between Yaakov and the sar of Esav. After the fight it says that the sun shined on Yaakov,” Rabbi Avraham Mykoff told the assembled. “We have to know that Klal Yisrael has an eternal battle, but that in the end of each of them the sun will shine and we will see that it is all for our own good.”
One of the shul’s sifrei Torah was rescued by Rabbi Mykoff and a fireman who ran into the burning building, but then ran out as parts of the roof began to collapse. Poile Zedek’s plans for rebuilding are uncertain at the moment pending an evaluation of the building’s structural damage. In the meantime, space has been found to house the congregation in offices across the street from the shul building.
Poile Zedek was first formed in 1901, largely by Russian immigrants. The present structure was erected in 1923. In recent decades the post-communism wave of immigrants from the FSU has contributed to a revitalization of the shul.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.