Policeman Rescues Torahs from Quake-Hit Synagogue
by Hillel Fendel
A New Zealand policeman forbade a Chabad rabbi from rescuing an earthquake-destroyed synagogue’s Torah scrolls - and instead, did it himself.
A few days after last week’s calamitous earthquake, Rabbi Shmuel Friedman of the local Beit Chabad (Chabad House) – which was nearly totally destroyed in the quake – attempted to enter the ruins, rogether with Israeli backpacker Noam Diamant, in order to extricate the two Torah scrolls. However, police detective Chris Bell stopped them even before they could enter the stricken area and told them that the entire are was cordoned off. “I pleaded with him,” Rabbi Friedman later related to J-Wire, Jewish Online News from Australia and New Zealand. “I explained how the Torah was hand-written on special parchment and that it was the Jewish Bible and how much importance was attached to them.”
Bell heard them out, and took them in a police car to what was left of Chabad House. “It was a five-minute drive,” Rabbi Friedman said, “but it was a horrifying experience. The entire block which houses Chabad House is red-tagged and will be totally demolished. I didn’t recognize the street.” When they reached the building, the detective again said that they could not enter, as it was too dangerous.
“I pleaded with him again,” the rabbi said, and in response, Detective Bell said nothing, but rather headed for his car, donned a safety helmet and work gloves, and headed into the remains of Chabad House. A few minutes later he emerged carrying both large Torah scrolls – with red and white covers, respectively - under his arm. “He looked like a fireman rescuing a baby from a blazing home,” Rabbi Friedman said, adding that the two saved scrolls will “form an integral part of the rebuilding of Chabad House in Christchurch.”..
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