(WASHINGTONPOST) — For Orthodox Jewish families, the hours from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday are sacred. It’s the Sabbath — a time to obey God’s word and refrain from work to keep the day holy. Because some will not switch on electricity or light a flame during Shabbat, hotplates are an alternative to keep food warm.
But the appliance proved deadly for one Orthodox Jewish family when, in the wee hours on Saturday morning, a faulty one caught fire and sent flames crawling upstairs into the children’s bedrooms in Midwood, a tree-lined neighborhood in Brooklyn. Gayle Sassoon could hear her children crying, but the blaze kept her away. A teenage daughter jumped from an upstairs window, breaking bones when she hit the ground. When Sassoon could not save the others, she jumped, too.
Both Sassoon and her daughter were taken to the hospital and listed in critical condition, suffering burns and smoke inhalation. Her seven other children — four boys and three girls ranging in age from 5 to 16 — never made it out. The children’s father, Gabriel Sassoon, was at a spiritual retreat in Manhattan. He came home to a burned-out brick house and prepared to bury his seven children who died in it.
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