Chabad NZ’s new South Island HQ

December 25, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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Chabad New Zealand will temporarily move its Christchurch operations to Queenstown following the earthquake which struck Christchurch on Friday.

Rabbi Mendel Goldstein and Rabbi Shmuel Kopel in the Christchurch Chabad House

The South Island city was hit by an earthquake in February this year which killed 181 people including three Israeli backpackers, destroyed the Chabad House and inflicted serious structural damage on the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation synagogue which remains shut down to this day.

Rabbi Mendel Goldstein told J-Wire he had been in Christchurch two days before the last week’s earthquake to initiate a  Chanukah program and to once again enter the beleaguered Chabad House with local authorities to recover the Yad [pointer] and Crown for the Torah scrolls rescued in the February ‘quake. He was assisted by Rabbi Shmuel Kopel who heads Queenstown Chabad.

According to Rabbi Goldstein, the latest earthquake, which registered 5.8 on the Richter scale,  had not inflicted any injuries on the local community and that all reports he received indicated that the quake had created alarm but no injury or damage. There have been further, but lesser, tremors in its wake.

Rabbi Goldstein has sent a strong message to the large number of Israeli backpackers who visit New Zealand at this time of the year to steer clear of Christchurch. The Israelis form a large part of Chabad’s ever-changing community in New Zealand.

He told J-Wire: “I was hoping to bring back to Auckland good news of how encouraging signs of progress were finally restoring the sense of confidence about the future…but these latest tremors have more than put the clock back for many”

He said that the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation board was still waiting to hear if the ground on which the shut down synagogue is standing is deemed safe. If not the syngagogue will have to be relocated.

The South Island Chabad House based in Christchurch will be razed and its operations will be temporarily relocated “in the very near future” to Queenstown.

Rabbi Goldstein said that Chabad will   establish a new Chabad House Christchurch when the area is deemed safe. He added: “In the meantime we will continue to reach out to Canterbury especially around Jewish Holidays and Festivals”

Edward Adams, the president of the Cnaterbury Hebrew Congregation, said:  ‘The Community is surviving without further  problems. We have rented a house which we are using as a shul and community centre until the synagogue, which has been extensively damaged, can be repaired. This is likely to take over twelve months to do. We held services for the Yomim Naroim with the help of a couple of young men from Melbourne and they were well atended. Syd Goldsmith, our long-serving past president was evacuated to Melbourne where he has since passed away and Dame Grace Hollander another stalwart of the Community who lost her home has moved to family in the North Island.

We hope for better things in 2012!




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