New Zealand Synagogue Spared Damage by Earthquake

New Zealand Synagogue Spared Damage by Earthquake

by Mendy Rimler - New Zealand

September 5, 2010

( Only a few days before the worst earthquake to hit New Zealand in 80 years struck,  renovations on the Canterbury Hebrew Synagogue were completed.

“Renovations on the synagogue were completed just last Wednesday,” the Chabad representative to Christchurch, , Rabbi Mendy Goldstein, told, explaining that renovations brought the synagogue structure up to to code, meeting earthquake standards.

When he arrived to lead services on Saturday morning, a few hours after an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale hit Christchurch early Saturday morning, Goldstein found the building perfectly intact. 

But extensive damage to homes, roads, sewer lines and power cables, have prompted the city of about 350,000, to declare a state of emergency. Repairs are estimated at $1.4 billion. Tremors continued for some time following the major quake.

“Thank G-d, we are not dealing with serious casualties, and the local emergency response has so far done a wonderful job in the recovery effort,” said Goldstein.

But many are still in a state of shock, and long lines are forming at supermarkets.

“We have been picking up where police and emergency responders have left off, visiting the elderly and helping home-bound people,” he explains. “Many are still afraid to leave their houses. We’re bringing food and water where needed.”

The ceiling of his home collapsed as the Goldstein family was asleep in the predawn hours Saturday morning. No one was hurt. The Chabad House in the city center, says Goldstein, is still inaccessible, so he has not been able to verify the damage it sustained.

Community members participated at Shabbat services followed by a baby naming at a Kiddush in the synagogue. Sunday classes resumed on schedule.

Rabbi Shmuley Kopel, a Chabad representative in nearby Dunedin flew in to help Goldstein. For the most part, he says, “we’re needed to offer comfort and reassurance.”

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