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Fire Strikes Wynnefield Shul

June 22, 2011 By:
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The windows of a Wynnefield mansion-turned-Orthodox shul were boarded up Wednesday after an early morning electrical fire damaged the upstairs.

Congregation Raim Ahuvim president Marvin Gornish said he wasn't sure what would happen to the building because the dwindling membership had already left them with insufficient funds to carry fire insurance.

Fire companies were dispatched to the building on the 5800 block of Drexel Road at 12:45 p.m., where flames were already bursting from the back of the second floor, said Philadelphia Fire Department spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Thompson. Firefighters searched the building but found no one inside, Thompson said. A report from the fire marshal blamed wiring in the ceiling and roof for starting the blaze.

The building has been home to Raim Ahuvim since 1958, Gornish said, though the congregation itself started in South Philadelphia in the 1890s. It relocated to West Philadelphia around 1929 before migrating again to its current home, the "last bastion" of Orthodox congregations in Wynnefield, Gornish said.

Gornish, 71, lives next door, in the former carriage house his father had purchased from the shul. Despite the fire damage, Gornish said he still walked over in the morning to hold minyan with the four other remaining members and a handful of students from the nearby Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia.

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