Brazilian Jewish school takes in hospital patients escaping a fire

The fire broke out in the Hospital São Lucas’ laundry room Wednesday morning, producing thick smoke that required an evacuation to a nearby Jewish school.

TTH Barilan School, a Jewish school in Rio de Janeiro, provided shelter to over 150 patients escaping a fire in a nearby hospital.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
TTH Barilan School, a Jewish school in Rio de Janeiro, provided shelter to over 150 patients escaping a fire in a nearby hospital.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

A Jewish school here took in over 150 patients escaping a hospital fire, many of them in sick beds, on Wednesday.

The fire broke out in the Hospital São Lucas’ laundry room Wednesday morning, producing thick smoke that required an evacuation.

Employees at the hospital in Copacabana, one of Rio’s most Jewish neighborhoods, wheeled patients to the nearby TTH Barilan school and to the ground floors of apartment buildings. The incident made headlines across Brazil.

“Humanity is so complicated that, when you do the right thing, they say you’re like Superman,” TTH Barilan’s president Rafael Antaki told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The hospital’s emergency plan was successful, and so was ours, focused on chesed and love,” he added, using the Hebrew word for kindness.

The skyline of Rio de Janeiro is pictured June 16, 2014 (credit: REUTERS/MICHAEL DALDER)The skyline of Rio de Janeiro is pictured June 16, 2014 (credit: REUTERS/MICHAEL DALDER)

The unprecedented scene of hospital beds lined up in the school’s courtyard made parents, teachers and employees emotional. Kindergarten classes were temporarily suspended, but elementary, junior high and high school classes were not interrupted.

One patient needed to be resuscitated in the courtyard, the O Dia newspaper reported.

“Today our school lent its space and heart. Families came to help and did not even talk about exposing their children’s health and security, with the simple goal of helping the lives of people they didn’t even know. This is education. This is Torah, love your neighbor as yourself. We can have a lot of advice and speech on how to raise children for the world, but only good examples and good deeds proliferate.”

Viviane Cohen Schvartz, an ex-student and mother of two kids at the TTH Barilan school

Founded in 1954, Barilan is an Orthodox institution located in the heart of Copacabana, which is affiliated with two synagogues, the Bnei Akiva youth movement and a kosher restaurant that is open on Sundays.