Christchurch Shul Shut Down – but Shabbas as normal

March 10, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
Read on for article

Structural damage caused by continuing aftershocks following last month’s earthquake in Christchurch have caused serious damage to the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation’s synagogue…but a 147 year record of Shabbat services is intact.


Torah off to a safe place

Shored up Shule

Today, the sefer torahs were removed from the Ark which is particularly vulnerable and moved to a safe place. It was the first time board members have been able to visit the syngagogue since the earthquake struck at lunchtime on February 22.

The synagogue, thought to have been structurally safe following the earthquake last September has now been rendered unsafe.

Board member Tonny De Vries spoke to J-Wire: “We are still experiencing aftershocks and a small tower which stands above the ark is leaning 20cm. It is reparable and the main building is OK although the floor has cracks. The building manager and structural engineer checked the tower using laser levels. The six sefer torahs have been removed from the Ark to a safe spot within the building. We have no idea how long it will take to stabilise the tower but our 147 year of Shabbat services will continue. Services will be held in my home and we will use a chumash as there are insurance issues about moving the Torahs out of the synagogue premises.”

J-Wire asked De Vries about life in Christchurch two and a half weeks on from that fateful day which saw at least 166 lose their lives including three Israeli backpakers. She said: “We have around eighty families in our community and eight of them are without homes. I have one family staying with me and others have moved out of the city. The local park is chocabloc with camper vans rented as temporary homes. My neighbour’s home was damaged in the September 2010 earthquake and they are still waiting for it to be demolished.”

But the Kiwi spirit prevails. She added: “There are many web sites using humour to get us through this…and we will get through it.”

In the meantime the pioneer spirit which saw the founding of the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation 147 years ago prevails…and tomorrow morning a small group will gather in the De Vries home for a Shabbat service that will keep the weekly tradition alive.



One Response to “Christchurch Shul Shut Down – but Shabbas as normal”
  1. Nickolas Warburton says:

    I am glad everyone is safe and sound and our thoughts are with the Israiles that had died in the quake. If there is any families that live close to horse shoe lake and don’t have water or like a much needed hot shower we’ld to be able to help.
    And if please someone can pass us the address for Tonny De Vries as we would like to continue attending saturday morning services.


    Nick & Alissa

    You can obtain our home number from Raddi Mendy

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.