Earthquake-damaged New Zealand shul renting for Rosh Hashanah

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — The small Jewish community in the earthquake-ravaged New Zealand city of Christchurch will celebrate Rosh Hashanah in a rental property because the city’s only synagogue has not yet been repaired.

The congregation would now be “lucky if repair works can start in 12 months’ time,” the acting president of the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation, Bettina Wallace, said in a Sept. 17 report to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The JDC donated $20,000 to the community’s earthquake appeal.

The devastating Feb. 22 tremor claimed the lives of more than 180 people, including three Israelis. The synagogue building suffered extensive damage. The tower that holds the ark had to be removed. Engineers insisted that the entire front part of the synagogue will need to be demolished and rebuilt, according to Wallace.

Wallace said the congregation rented a house two weeks ago thanks largely to the donation from the JDC. “The house is small, but has a huge living room which we have converted into a sanctuary,” she wrote.

The lay-led community is preparing for two young Chabad rabbis from Melbourne to lead the services, Wallace added.

The city’s Chabad house, a rented property, suffered severe damage in the earthquake.

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