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17 people, 8 of them children, died in high-rise blaze

Jewish groups rally for victims of deadly Bronx fire as residents mourn

Many of those displaced were immigrants from Gambia, who are struggling to come to terms with the toll of the devastating fire

A volunteer, left, distributes hot soup at a distribution tent set up by the Masbia kosher pantry network near the scene of a deadly fire in the Bronx, Jan. 10, 2022. The fire, which claimed 19 lives, is the city's deadliest in 30 years. (Courtesy Masbia via JTA)
A volunteer, left, distributes hot soup at a distribution tent set up by the Masbia kosher pantry network near the scene of a deadly fire in the Bronx, Jan. 10, 2022. The fire, which claimed 19 lives, is the city's deadliest in 30 years. (Courtesy Masbia via JTA)

NEW YORK — New York’s Jewish community is rallying for victims and first responders after the city’s deadliest fire in 30 years.

Seventeen people, including eight children, were killed in the blaze in the Bronx, which raged through a 19-story high rise on East 181st Street — home to a large African immigrant community. Firefighters found victims on nearly every floor.

In the hours after the fire, the Masbia network of kosher food pantries set up a relief tent near the scene of the tragedy, serving food to survivors and responders.

Masbia also teamed up with Boro Park Shomrim, the Jewish neighborhood patrol in Brooklyn, to purchase and distribute emergency supplies, beverages and snacks.

SAR Academy, the Jewish day school in Riverdale, announced it is is raising funds to help the victims. The Riverdale Jewish Center is also accepting monetary donations, and drop-off boxes will be available at the synagogue on 3700 Independence Ave.

UJA-Federation of New York tweeted, “Our hearts ache for the victims of this horrific tragedy and their loved ones. We’re in touch with government officials and our partner agencies in the Bronx to assist in any way possible.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of NY issued a statement, saying it is in “active discussion about how to best help the victims with this trauma,” and noting that many of the victims were Muslims.

A community mourns

Mayor Eric Adams on Monday lowered the death toll from an initial report Sunday, saying that two fewer people were killed than originally thought.

As survivors recalled the frantic chaos of their escape, bereft family and friends of those who perished coped with shock, disbelief and pain.

People prepares donations at Gambian Youth Organization near the apartment building in the Bronx on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, in New York. . (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

“Some people don’t even know that their loved ones are gone,” said Fathia Touray, speaking to The Associated Press from her home in the United Arab Emirates. Her mother and siblings lived on the building’s third floor, where the fire started. One sister was rushed to a hospital, but is now in stable condition. The rest of her immediate family escaped.

Adams said Monday morning that several people were still in critical condition after a malfunctioning space heater sparked the city’s deadliest fire in three decades.

Renee Howard, 68, became emotional as she spoke about the lives lost.

“I’ve never experienced such devastation. My neighbors died, children died — I don’t understand, I don’t understand,” she said as she broke into sobs.

“I don’t remember all their names right now,” she said, before rattling off a few, including one boy who she described as having “such beautiful angelic eyes.”

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a fatal fire at an apartment building in the Bronx on January 9, 2022, in New York. The majority of victims were suffering from severe smoke inhalation, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

All those lives, she said, were “snatched away in a second.”

She joined other residents, surviving family and strangers alike in prayer Monday to console the grieving.

At Masjid-ur-Rahmah, a mosque just a few blocks from the apartment building, more than two dozen people came together in solidarity. Many of those who pray at the mosque live in the building.

About a dozen women wept inside the mosque, mourning the loss of three young children in the fire. Members of the congregation weren’t sure about whether the children’s parents survived, and many family members feared the worst.

“To God we belong and to God we return,” said the mosque’s imam, Musa Kabba, who urged congregants to be patient while awaiting news about loved ones.

Many who lived at the apartment complex had formed a close-knit community, and soon word spread about who might have died amid the smoke and fire.

“I’m so sorry for the people that lost their children and their mothers because we all are one. And for this to happen, it’s horrible,” said Tysena Jacobs, a building resident.

Meanwhile, The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City launched a relief fund to aid displaced residents.

“The city stands ready to give impacted families all the support they need,” Adams said.

Family members gather and wait for information about missing loved ones at Masjid-Ur-Rahmah near the apartment building which suffered the city’s deadliest fire in three decades, in the Bronx borough of New York on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

“This is a very close-knit community,” said Touray, who lived in the building herself for many years and has kept close contact with family and friends in the United States despite moving to the United Arab Emirates.

Her family moved to the building nearly four decades ago. Soon, others from Gambia, some from the same village as her own, would arrive. Over the years, they formed a community in one enclave of the Bronx.

“These are working class, first-generation immigrant families surviving,” she said, “and just trying to thrive in the U.S.”

“We’ve lost a lot of close family friends,” said Touray, who said she expected to fly back to the United States to be with family.

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