According to the Masorti Olami, the Masorti synagogue in Concepcion was destroyed in the earthquake that rocked Chile this weekend.
The head of the international Masorti organization, Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, has been circulating an e-mail stating that the walls were cracked and the roof caved in.
“’In Concepcion, close to the epicenter of the earthquake, Rabbi Angel Kreiman told us that he went to the Synagogue, and ‘it was like the hurban habayit (destruction of the temple), the walls were all cracked and the roof had fallen down. I couldn’t stay there, so I got the sifrei Torah and left,’” Graetz wrote.
Initial reports from international Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT indicated little damage to the Jewish infrastructure in Chile. News of the synagogue’s destruction started to emerge late Tuesday and was confirmed Wednesday.
ORT, a Jewish organization that runs a 62 schools and vocational training center around the world, has programs in 13 schools in Chile. ORT has been assessing the situation to respond to the earthquake. ORT reports:
“Four days ago, the earth moved violently in a phenomenon we felt would be a life-changing event. The Jewish community is quickly organizing itself, including ORT, to coordinate a nationwide campaign to help those whom have been less fortunate. ORT Chile has relationships with at least thirteen schools in the area which suffered the greatest from the earthquake, with additional requirements from a small, but significant, Jewish community in Concepción, Chile.” ORT Chile National Director Marcelo Lewkow stated.
While Chileans slowly recover basic essential services such as shelter, water, food and electricity, ORT focuses on the immediate and urgent need of its students.
“Schools play a vital role in creating normalcy after a disaster which is so psychologically important to young people.” said Alan Klugman, ORT America’s Executive Director. “ORT has the experience needed to work with communities in emergency crisis like the ones in Chile affected by the earthquake. We are calling on our donors in the United States to contribute to the programs in Chile and help these students in desperate need.”
ORT has been active in Chile since 1943 and closely linked to the Jewish community and schools. Current projects include building computer and science labs, early literacy projects, and technology for the disabled population.
“Entire schools were wiped out or severely damaged. An intensive and large scaled effort will be necessary to help this region regain its life and economy to what it was just a few days ago.” declared Mr. Lewkow. “An ORT professional had been due to travel to Talcahuano, Chile this Sunday to train teachers on computer science methodology. Today, Tacahuano hardly exists.”
ORT has launched an Chilean Earthquake Crisis page for donors to receive up to the minute information regarding activities on the ground in Chile from Marcelo Lewkow.
Additionally, ORT has assessed its Chilean schools in Santiago and Vinda del Mar and has founded no damage. Plans are to open Monday after delaying the first day of school following summer recess by one week.