I feel the searing pain of the recent fire at the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (KJ) in an unusual number of ways (“Catastrophe, But Not A Tragedy,” July 15). The original Rabbi M. Z. Ramaz Margolies, of blessed memory, was born in the Lithuanian town of Meretz, as was one of his most prominent supporters at the KJ, Harry Fischel, of blessed memory, the once world-famous philanthropist, my late great-grandfather, (whose Hebrew name I bear with appreciation).
Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, my late grandfather, aka The Maverick Rabbi, was the first American-born rabbi to share the KJ pulpit under Rabbi Margolies, before virtually everyone now attending KJ was born.
And finally, my father, YL, was the rabbi — and Rabbi Goldstein, of blessed memory, was the rabbi emeritus — of the West Side Institutional Synagogue (WSIS) when its main sanctuary was gutted by a fire that began in its then-magnificent dome, in the 1960s.
The WSIS fire occurred on a Friday night, and likewise was Page 1 news the next day. The synagogue had Torahs in its ark at the time, and I recall an honor roll of the members of the synagogue who took all of them safely from the firefighters. (Because of the Sabbath, my father would not speak to the television cameras, but the actions of the heroic firefighters and congregants at the scene spoke louder than words.)
The beautiful and historic shell of the synagogue was preserved, and the synagogue was rebuilt magnificently.
The WSIS is now privileged to witness a complete revival under Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn. I pray that the KJ will rebuild as successfully as the WSIS did. The KJ’s inspirational leadership is fortunate to have an enthusiastic and sentimental base that transcends geography and generations, which bodes well for the future.