SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Nearly 1,000 religious books have been rescued from the heavily damaged Chabad House in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The Chabad House is located in the city’s downtown, near the epicenter of the major Feb. 22 temblor that claimed more than 165 lives, including three Israelis. Days following the quake, a rescue worker, at risk to his own life, removed the Chabad center’s two Torah scrolls.
Chabad of New Zealand director Rabbi Mendel Goldstein told JTA that engineers had initially told him it was too dangerous to enter the building because “any further aftershock is likely to bring down the rest of the roof.”
But on Monday two engineers and two rescue workers said they were willing to go in and allow Rabbi Goldstein to direct them.
“It turned out to be a very miraculous trip,” he said. “The four of them helped take down pile after pile of books. They took down close to 1,000 religious books. We are overwhelmed beyond words. It is the largest Hebrew library in New Zealand.”
On Monday night the rescue team was invited to attend a celebration with rabbinical students who have arrived in the south island ahead of Pesach. Earlier in the day, Chris Bell, the rescue worker who saved the two Torah scrolls from the Chabad house just days after the quake, attended a memorial service at which Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was also present.