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New Zealand synagogue survives earthquake

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — The only synagogue in Christchurch, New Zealand, survived a massive earthquake.

The fate of the city’s Chabad House remains unclear, however.

Saturday’s tremor, registering 7.1 on the Richter scale, ripped through the city in the south island at 4:30 a.m. It caused an estimated $1.4 billion in property damage. There were no fatalities.

Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, the American-born director of Chabad of New Zealand, told JTA that the earthquake — the country’s worst since 1931 — razed part of the roof of his dining room while his wife and three children were sleeping.

“We scrambled to find the kids, pick them up and hold them beneath the doorposts,” he said.

“When we felt it was slowing down we took them out of the house into the parked car and hunkered down for about two hours," Goldstein said. “No one was seriously hurt, although quite a few elderly people are still in shock over the earthquake.”

The fate of the city’s Chabad House, which is home to the country’s only kosher restaurant, is unknown because the area has been cordoned off by authorities due to the extensive damage.

“It’s in the hardest-hit area,” Goldstein said. “The Chabad House serves as the community center.”

Goldstein went to the city’s only synagogue, Canterbury Hebrew Congregation, just hours after the quake.

“The shul just finished renovations last Wednesday; the building was overdue for some strengthening for quite some time," the rabbi said. "Coincidentally the repairs were completed and the shul was virtually unscathed by the earthquake.

“We’ve been visiting older members of the community. We delivered them some drinks and food, and made sure they know someone is there for them.”

Rabbi Shmuel Kopel, another Chabad rabbi, flew from Dunedin to Christchurch Sunday to help Goldstein with relief efforts for the city’s 2,000 Jews.
 

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