New York, NY Synagogue panic, Sept 1892


Is a Jewish Synagogue in New York City.


A Rush Results in Packed Stairways and Frightful Confusion.


And More Than a Dozen Persons More or Less Seriously Injured.

NEW YORK, September 23. - There are four Jewish synagogues in the tenement house, No. 27 Ludlow street. They were all crowded this morning with devout Hebrews attending the festival services of New Year when some person in one of the places of worship raised the cry of fire. Immediately there was a panic, everybody rushing for the doors. The stairway, which is not very wide, became packed with people. They piled right on top of one another in the stairway. Some person out on the street had enough presence of mind to send out the fire alarm which brought the department to the scene. The firemen succeeded in extricating the people from the blocked stairway and found four dead and about a dozen injured.

Following are the names of injured persons at Governeuer's hospital:

Rebecca Freidman, 40 years, fractured skull.
Tillie Millker, 33 years, skull fractured and will probably die.
Julius Altman, 9 years, thigh injured.
Rachael Boisuk, 47 years, skull fractured.
Ida Cohen, fractured skull, injuries fatal.
Herman Cohen, 15 years, wrist fractured and internal injuries.
Rachel Dackowitz, skull fractured.
Annie Cohen, 58 years, widow, skull fractured, injuries fatal.
Mrs. Annie Smilowitz, several ribs broken.
Simon Greenburg, 33 years, skull fractured, injuries fatal.

The alarm was caused by setting fire by a burning candle to the cloth drapery over the altar in the synagogue of Talmud Thorah, which is on the second floor front. There were four congregations, numbering nearly two thousand persons, men, women and children, worshipping. The stairway was narrow, and Mrs. Annie Smilowitz, a very short woman, fell, blocking the passage way and causing the deaths of those right behind. The four synagogues were the Padolski society, Talmud Thorah, Sons of Aaron and Betti Achin Anschef. There was also a Hebrew school in the building.

The rooms occupied by the congregation were furnished with rows of wooden benches, sat close together, and the people were packed into each room like sardines in a box. Its customary at the feast season for the members of various synagogues to hire such rooms as these for daily religious service and just now the Jewish community is in the midst of the celebration of the new year.

Four women are known to have been killed and a dozen or more other persons seriously injured by being trampled upon by a fear madden crowd. Some of them will probably die. Freda Becker, forty-four years, Russian, of 38 Ludlow street; Naomi Rosenthal, thirty years, 173 Ludlow street, [illegible], Tyepe Beyma, fifty, Russian, 149 Forsyth street, widow; Mrs. Portmann, widow, seventy years, 222 Madison street.

The hall-ways of the building are dark and narrow and the stairways steep and unprotected by railings. As the crowd surged into the narrow passage-way it became blocked almost immediately. Women and children were crushed together in a wild struggle to gain the street and tumbled over and trampled upon each other as they fell and slid down the precipitous stairways. Their frantic shrieks could be heard all over the block and the alarm quickly spread to the other congregations which were also gathered in the same building.

They poured out of the adjoining rooms on each floor and joined the panic stricken crowd, adding new horror to the situation.

For a few minutes it was impossible to render any assistance whatever. The narrow hallway was literally packed with frightened people. Some of them were lying on the floor while others rushed over their prostrate bodies in a frenzied effort to gain the street.

It was a mad fight for life. Many crowded out upon the fire escapes on the second floor and leaped into the street. There was no fire to be seen only a thin film of smoke was coming from the third story windows.

The officers finally succeeded in making some headway against the stream of humanity that was pouring out of the building and edged themselves within the hallway. When they reached the foot of the first stairway they found a large, stout woman, Annie Smilowitz, who had fallen at the lowest step, blocked the way and imprisoned those behind. Roundman Cotton dragged her out. She was unconscious and terribly bruised and disfigured, for hundreds must have trampled over her body. As soon as the building had been cleared it was found that no damage had been done to the structure by fire, and its only indications were a burned thora and charred top of the altar.

Almost all the buildings in the neighborhood are tenement houses, occupied principally by Hebrews, and the entire population had turned out into the street. The police reserves had to be summoned to keep the excited people back. Max B. Kramer, secretary of the congregation of Tahund Thora Ohel Iazchok, where the fire broke out, told a reporter that Rabbi Waliozinski and Assistant Solomon was blowing the shoyfer horn during the interval between the morning and the mid-day services. The congregation had faced away from the altar, which stood near the middle front window. There are three windows. Kramer turned around and saw the candle on the altar slowly igniting the drapery on the wood work that constituted the back of the altar. A boy, who had been hired to attend to the wants of the congregation, was called and told to put out the fire with a wet towel. Instead of doing that, the boy tried to blow out the flames. Some men grabbed the four branched candlestick and threw it out the window into the street. By this time the congregation had broken into a panic and was rushing down stairs.

Some of the less orthodox worshippers say the fire could have been extinguished in a moment if the older members of the congregation had not had conscientious scruples about putting out fire on a holiday. To do so they considered a desecration.

Roundman Colton, who pulled Mrs. Anna Smilowitz from the foot of the stairway, thinks that all the people would have escaped if Mrs. Smilowitz had not blockd the way.

Police Captain Cross says that at least twenty-five injured persons were taken to their homes without any report being made.

The Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune, Knoxville, TN 24 Sept 1892

The four dead taken to the station house were identified as follows:

Freda Becker, forty-four years, a Russian, of 38 Ludlow street; identified by her husband, Jolef Becker.
Naomi Rosenthal, thirty years, of 175 Ludlow street, married; identifed by her sister.
Tvepe Boyam, aged fifty, Russian, of 140 Forsyth street, widow; identified by her son-in-law, Moses Moskewitch, with whom she resided.
Mrs. Portmann, a widow, seventy years old, of 222 Madison street.
The bodies were placed in the back room of the station house.

A coroner arrived at 11:30 o'clock, and, with his deputies, immediately began an examination of the bodies. The result of the examination was as follows: Freda Becker died of shock and a fracture of the sixth rib. Naomi Rosenthal, fracture of the left leg and dislocated neck. Tvepe Boyam, shock and internal injuries. Mrs. Portmann, bruises of the frontal bone and shock.


A doxen or more other persons are so seriously injured by being trampled upon by a fear-maddened crowd that some of them will probably die. Among those at Gouvenor Hospital are:

Julius Altman, nine years, 29 Essex street, thigh injured.
Rachel Borsuk, aged forty-seven, 92 Norfolk stree [sic], skull fractured.
Ida Cohen, aged twenty-one, of 22 Madison street, fractured skull; injuries fatal.
Herman Cohen, brother of Ida Cohen, fifteen years, of 178 Madison street, wrist fractured and internal injuries.
Annie Cohen, fifty-eight years old, widow, 25 Essex street, skull fractured; injuries fatal.
Simon Greenburg, thirty-five years, 175 Monroe street, skull fractured; injuries fatal.
Rebecca Friedman, forty-nine years, of 27 Suffolk street, fractured skull.
Tillie Stiliker, thirty-five years, of 34 Norfolk street. Case most serious, women being pregnant; skull fractured and will probably die.

The Sun, Baltimore, MD 24 Sept 1892