Community reels after devastating Midwood fire

Overwhelming grief: Hundreds turned out at Shomrei Hadas Chapel in Borough Park Monday for the funeral of the seven children killed in a Midwood housefire on Saturday.
The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

A deadly fire tore through a Midwood home in the early hours of March 21, killing seven children from one orthodox Jewish family, and leaving their mother and a sibling fighting for life.

Only the mother and a 14-year-old daughter survived the blaze, which authorities say was sparked by a hot plate used to heat food on the Sabbath. They were able to escape by leaping from a second-story window before the flames ripped through the house, trapping the other children, who ranged in age from five to 15, police said.

The victims were identified as Eliane Sassoon, 16; Rivkah Sassoon, 11; David Sassoon, 12; Yeshua Sassoon, 10; Moshe Sassoon, 8; Sara Sassoon, 6, and Yaakob Sassoon, 5.

The mother, Gayle Sassoon, and her second-oldest daughter Siporah had managed to jump out of a second-story window and, though badly burned, summoned a neighbor for help, according to news reports.

About 100 firefighters responded to the 911 call shortly after midnight on March 21 to find the building engulfed in flames. Responders declared one of the sisters dead at the scene, while the other six children were declared dead at area hospitals, cops said.

Paramedics transported the mother to the burn center at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, and her daughter to Staten Island University North Hospital burn center, both in critical condition, police said.

The children’s father was away at a religious conference, according to the New York Times.

As hundreds flocked to funerals for the victims, local elected officials mourned the family’s loss and called for increased attention to fire safety in the borough.

“The grief felt throughout my district is palpable, as we are distraught and in mourning,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) in a statement. “Seven young brothers and sisters perished while a fire raged through their bedrooms. This inconceivable tragedy has left a family broken and a community devastated. We must educate ourselves in an attempt to avert future disaster. We cannot afford to have another catastrophe. It is imperative that we be conscientious and prepared.”

Authorities say there were no smoke detectors on the first and second floors of the house, leading Borough President Adams to announce a fire-safety education program and smoke-detector giveaway, and call for the establishment of a burn center in a hospital within the borough.

The death toll from the blaze is the worst in New York since a fire in the Bronx claimed 10 lives from two families, but Mayor DeBlasio, who toured the site as fire fighters continued to sift through the wreckage, said Saturday’s blaze stands out for its devastating impact on one family.

“I talked to the commissioner and the chief, and they believe this is one of the worst fire tragedies in many, many years in this city,” he said on Saturday afternoon. “Neither could remember the loss of seven children from one family in their long memory working in this department. So this is a tragedy that has very few examples for us to look at.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

PanderingPols from KneeJerkReaction says:
It's a shame that these lives were lost but Adams needs to stop flapping his soup coolers because 'free' isn't free. Those detectors will cost money via tax payers. Additionally if you own a house worth 1.5 to 2 million dollars you SHOULD have a $20 detector. As a matter of fact it should be a requirement of your home owners insurance. So Deutsch had it right when he said 'We must educate ourselves in an attempt to avert future disaster.' Also does anyone know whether their religious practice of not being allowed to interact with electronic devices had anything to do with this unfortunate event?
March 23, 2015, 1:52 pm
TRIP from LES says:
And these poor children died because of kooky superstitions, SMH.
March 23, 2015, 2:29 pm
ty from pps says:
Yes, sounds like something when wrong with the Shabbat hot plate.... and since this bizzaro-world technological work-around to the 2500 year old prohibition about work on the sabbath means you can shut off or unplug the appliance for 25 hours... well....

Perhaps more orthodox will take this as a message to follow the true spirit of Exodus 35:2-3, rather than looking for convenient work-arounds for forbidden work.

Ya know -- like the magic string (eruv) that transforms the whole public neighborhood into a 'private domain' so they can get around the prohibition of leaving their home (Exodus 16:29) or the general work prohibition of carrying between domains (Numbers 15:32). Because, ya know, regardless of what G-d says, having a nice saturday stroll in the park or Botanic Gardens can't be beat!
March 23, 2015, 3:12 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Any thought or thanks from the community for the firemen who had to pull those 7 lifeless bodies out of the inferno?
March 23, 2015, 3:24 pm
al from Brooklyn says:
There is no direct correlation between the tragedy and the Shabbat prohibition.Hot plates when used correctly are quite safe and in Jewish law saving life takes precedent over observing Shabbat
P.s." pps." You're casual quoting of scripture doesn't demonstrate any serious knowledge of Jewish law and your pejorative botanical gardens remark makes it clear that you have never been properly exposed to what shabbat is
March 23, 2015, 4:05 pm
ty from pps says:
Al -- I'm a goy that lived in Israel for 6 months. I celebrated the sabbath many times, but only with folks that took it in a healthy spirit. Not twisting themselves in knots to make sure they didn't close/open a circuit or forbid their children from climbing a tree. Or... Ack! Tying shoelaces!

Sorry if my exposure to shabbat didn't justify the magical string that allows mothers to carrying extra stuff with them to the park, but makes that magically an affront to all that is holy if they stepped outside the magic string.

Can you imagine how much more of a spiritual connection a family could make each Shabbat, if they didn't consume so much energy (on the day of rest) searching for work-arounds to continue doing forbidden things without "actually" doing forbidden things....
March 23, 2015, 5:23 pm
al from brooklyn says:
Pps-While having a restful weekend detached from the stresses and distractions of life is invigorating and wholesome perhaps even spiritual that isn't the true intent of the Sabbath. Rather We enforce within ourselves that the creator "created the world in six days and rested on the seventh" by also refraining from creative activities such as electricity on the seventh day of the week.
March 23, 2015, 5:57 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
I hate to interrupt, but the above comment seems fair enough to me. As long as it's done responsibly, and nobody gets hurt.
John Wasserman
March 23, 2015, 6:36 pm
ty from pps says:
Al -- You don't refrain from electricity or anything else... you just refrain from switches and twist yourselves in knots to make the appearance of holiness and piety -- is that the intent of the Sabbath?

Things like lamps with covers... that's the intent?

Your 'intent' of the Sabbath seems quite empty. Technological and rabbinic innovations to work around the ACTUAL intent of the prohibitions.

And, of course, anything is possible as long as you have a Shabbat goy on hand, right?
March 23, 2015, 7:05 pm
Jay from NYC says:
ok First "Ty" the term "GOY" is a term of prejudice and is bigoted and unacceptable. Second, your comments regarding other people's sincerely held beliefs, and trying to define their religion according to YOUR terms is also offensive. Try harder Ty. Leave the bigotry to someone else.
Moving on, does anyone know the actual reason there were no smoke detectors in a house with 8 children? I have three in my place plus two CO detectors, a fire extinguishers and an emergency window deploy-able fire escape ladder. I do everything I can to protect my loved ones from the red devil. Life is too frail and fragile to leave these kinds of things to chance. I hope anyone who reads this that does not have a smoke detector goes and gets one TONIGHT
March 23, 2015, 9:01 pm
al from Brooklyn says:
Firstly as proud Sabbath observer I do not appreciate the derisive nature of your comments wich is wholly unnecessary.

Secondly I will attempt to once again reiterate the point I made before as it seems you do not fully understand what I wrote. The issue isn't with utilizing technology or electricity the issue Is with doing creative activity.That is why the lamps have covers on them.What you are perhaps innocently mislabeling "loopholes" Or "innovations" are in fact a proper application of the relevant laws based on a thorough understanding of the topic.

Lastly no a "shabbos guy" Will only be used in very few special circumstances wich I will not go through right now

As far as I can gleam from our conversations pps I would be astounded if you bother to pay attention to my thoughts but I tried
March 23, 2015, 9:27 pm
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
these kids died a senseless death. Manipulating electronics on the weekend is not evil.
March 24, 2015, 7:21 am
mike from Bklyn says:
I believe the parents should be charged with negligence- it was their negligence and oversight to not have smoke detectors in the house as well as an extinguisher. They paid for it with their strict adherence to get around a religious constrict that is outdated and obsolete in the world today. Trying to live in a past time is dangerous
March 24, 2015, 11:49 am
Mark from Maspeth says:
EVERY hotplate plug has a tag on it that warns against leaving it unattended. If anyone chooses to leave it unattended, even for supposed religious convictions, they are totally responsible for their irresponsible choice.
March 24, 2015, 12:45 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
al - please keep in mind ty has issues that anything that does not make his shmeckle smile - my wife was orthodox and married a white anglo saxon catholic and her sisters and kids come to see the Christmas tree and g-d forbid have egg nog and dance - listen to Beatle records etc = point is every thing is us but you cannot keep 20 items plugged in. Ty is a simpleton = we are from a deeper well
March 24, 2015, 4:07 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: