Hours after a 6.1 earthquake tore through Napa Valley—now declared a disaster area by California Gov. Jerry Brown—Rabbi Elchonon Tenenbaum says he is thankful to G‑d that the many people he contacted are alive.
“It was very violent—not a gentle rolling quake, but more of a jolting traumatic experience that shocked us out of sleep at 3:20 a.m. and lasted for about half a minute,” says the father of five, who has co-directed the Napa Valley Chabad Jewish Center with his wife, Chanie, since 2006.
Tenenbaum says he waited outside with his neighbors until daybreak before going back into his home and Chabad center, where power had been lost, to survey the damage. He found that furniture had tumbled and broken glass was strewn everywhere, preventing him from accessing some rooms, including his office.
A disaster recovery fund was quickly established for those wanting to help out.
“I went to check up on people in the area and found that they were in a similar situation,” he says. “Their houses are standing, but everything inside has been ruined. Thank G‑d, this happened in the middle of the night when we were in our beds and not in other parts of our homes, where heavy bookcases fell over.”
Further to the west, Rabbi Chaim Zaklos, co-director of Chabad of Solano County—who is out of town for a family celebration—says he has been working the phones, networking with members of the community, putting people in touch with others in need of assistance.
Tenenbaum says that waking up in the middle of the night with his children screaming amid violent banging and shaking helped him picture what life must be like on a regular basis for people living in Israel, where Hamas has been firing rockets from Gaza for much of the summer.
He says that while he and his neighbors are still without power, other areas of the city have had their power restored.
“It is really surreal,” he says. “There are some stores that are functioning as usual, and others have been completely destroyed for now. Some streets are buckled, and others are just fine. Some people have broken water mains or leaking gas pipes, and others do not.”
In a town famous for its wineries, Tenenbaum reports that many people have told him that their wine barrels have fallen and broken, causing yet-to-be assessed damage.
“It is hard to know what will come,” he says taking about the next few days. “There is talk of more aftershocks. It is all in G‑d’s hands, but for now, we are trying to put things back together and be there for others as we work to put this behind us.”