Mourners attend the funeral for seven children killed in a Brooklyn fire in New York on March 22, 2015. The funeral of seven Orthodox Jewish children who perished in one of New York's deadliest fires in years drew a sea of mourners on Sunday to a Brooklyn neighborhood where the blaze has raised concerns about the safety of Sabbath cooking practices. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brendan McDermid *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ORTHODOX-FIRE, originally transmitted on March 23, 2015.

Brooklyn hot-plate fire leads Orthodox Jews to re-evaluate Sabbath safety

Mourners attend the funeral for seven children killed in a Brooklyn fire in New York on March 22, 2015. The funeral of seven Orthodox Jewish children who perished in one of New York's deadliest fires in years drew a sea of mourners on Sunday to a Brooklyn neighborhood where the blaze has raised concerns about the safety of Sabbath cooking practices. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brendan McDermid *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ORTHODOX-FIRE, originally transmitted on March 23, 2015.

Mourners attend the funeral for seven children killed in a Brooklyn fire in New York on March 22, 2015. The funeral of seven Orthodox Jewish children who perished in one of New York's deadliest fires in years drew a sea of mourners on Sunday to a Brooklyn neighborhood where the blaze has raised concerns about the safety of Sabbath cooking practices. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ORTHODOX-FIRE, originally transmitted on March 23, 2015.


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JERUSALEM (RNS) As the bodies of seven children from an Orthodox Jewish family were buried in Israel on Monday (March 23) after dying in a Brooklyn, N.Y., fire on Saturday, observant Jews around the world evaluated the safety of the devices they use to observe the Sabbath.

The tragedy sparked numerous Facebook discussions about the need for safety at the heart of Sabbath observance.

Many Jews acknowledged that they leave home while their Sabbath candles are burning and their hot plates are on, while Israelis noted that smoke alarms are not mandatory in their country.

New York Fire Department officials say the Brooklyn fire, which killed the Sassoon siblings aged 5 to 16, and badly injured their mother and surviving sister, was caused by a malfunctioning electric hot plate the family was using to keep food warm throughout the 25-hour Sabbath.

Authorities identified the victims as girls Eliane, 16; Rivkah, 11; and Sara, 6; and boys David, 12; Yehoshua, 10; Moshe, 8; and Yaakov, 5. All were found in upstairs bedrooms of the two-story, brick-and-wood, single-family home after the blaze -- New York City’s deadliest fire since 2007.

It was at least the fourth deadly blaze in the borough resulting from Sabbath and holiday observance in the past 15 years.

Forbidden by their faith to kindle a fire or manually adjust an electric switch on the Sabbath, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews in the U.S. and Israel keep electric or fire-fueled hot plates running throughout the 25-hour period.

On an Israeli user list several members said they had rushed out to buy smoke alarms after learning the Sassoon family had only one smoke detector -- in their basement. Others said they would check whether the timers they use to turn on and off their lights, hot plates and ovens can safely accommodate these appliances.

One Facebook commentator expressed the hope that the tragedy will encourage rabbis around the world “to talk with their communities about home fire safety. Perhaps a Shabbat event once a year in the Sassoons' memory dedicated to raising awareness.”

Stuart Schnee, an Orthodox Israeli, said he “had been meaning” to purchase smoke detectors for a long time but had procrastinated.

“This tragedy really woke us up. I already bought what I needed today. And we have discussed other steps we will take to improve our home safety,” Schnee said.

YS/AMB END CHABIN

Comments

  1. Seriously? You jeopardize the lives of your kids because some book of fairy tales tells you to?

  2. So true. Chosen ones not so bright as it turns out.

  3. As a member of a large family and a member of the SDA church, I will like to comment on this sorry event. We all need to review our habits. If God allow this to happen, He was really saving thousands of lives . While they were keeping the Sabbath, they were not safe. I will continue to keep the Sabbath according to Gods law. I never used a hot plate, but I dont have a fire detector now, because it is not mandated where I live, and there are many things Where I act just like this lovely family. May God bless the surviving members of this family that they continue to serve God, who will give us more than we deserve when this earth is made new.

  4. I would not even make such insensitive, unapologetic, ignorant remarks as Mike, Jamie, and Stephen posted. Freedom of speech – I guess. The Jews are God’s chosen people – you can like that, dispute that or not, but it is the truth. They are trying to follow ages-old rules. I cannot fault them as they are dedicated to serving God as they know. Jesus Christ came to set us free from following the hard rules, but Jews do not accept Christ as THEIR Messiah. I would suggest to Mike, Jamie, and Stephen to examine their own lives and see what they are dedicated to and what rules they observe – whether they admit it or not. Me? I would rather examine my own heart and express grief for the children who perished and the heartache the parents and other family members are feeling. You three are sad people. Really sad.

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