In Richmond and D.C., Synagogues Emptied After Temblor Struck

All Shook Up: People check their cell phones in Washington D.C. after an earthquake struck the East Coast. Jews in Richmond, Va., and Washington D.C., close to the epicenter, felt the strong temblor.
Getty Images
All Shook Up: People check their cell phones in Washington D.C. after an earthquake struck the East Coast. Jews in Richmond, Va., and Washington D.C., close to the epicenter, felt the strong temblor.

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published August 23, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Jewish centers and synagogues were evacuated by the earthquake that was felt up and down the East Coast.

Staffers at synagogues in Washington D.C. and Richmond, Va., the city closest to the epicenter, tried to calm one another’s jangled nerves as they checked their buildings for structural damage.

Scrambling on Big Day: A bride scrambles for cover in lower Manhattan after an earthquake rattled the East Coast.
Getty Images
Scrambling on Big Day: A bride scrambles for cover in lower Manhattan after an earthquake rattled the East Coast.

“It felt like a herd of elephants was running back and forth while someone was jackhammering the building,” said Shoshana Danon, an administrator at Kesher Israel, a Modern Orthodox synagogue 14 blocks from the White House. “I’m going around to make sure the Sefer Torahs didn’t get damaged.”

At Adas Israel, the largest Conservative synagogue in Washington, Executive Director Glenn Easton ordered the building evacuated after the quake ended. A lunch for seniors was stopped midway, and 100 people filed out of the building.

No one had yet arrived for a bris scheduled for later in the afternoon. “Fortunately, the bris hadn’t started yet,” said Easton. “That would not have been a good combination. We hope there aren’t any aftershocks,” he added.

He said that the bris would go ahead as planned. “A bris has to happen on the eighth day no matter what.”

At the Jewish Community Center in Richmond, some 700 visitors and staff members were jolted from their activity at the moment — swimming, preschool class, aerobic instruction. They were ordered to move into central areas of the two-story building, away from glass.

When the shaking stopped, everyone went back to their activities. There were no injuries.

“If you hadn’t been here for the two minutes that the building was shaking, you wouldn’t have noticed that anything had happened other than the fact that everyone is talking about it,” said Jordan Shenker, the JCC’s CEO.

The estimated 5.9 magnitude temblor struck around 2 p.m. It was felt from North Carolina to Maine, including in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where President Obama is vacationing.

In Lower Manhattan, thousands of office workers poured into the streets after feeling their skyscrapers shake. Cell phone service was disrupted as jittery workers tried to phone relatives.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood alongside other City Hall staffers after they evacuated the building.

“I did feel a little bit of shake,” Bloomberg told the Times. “And then it got greater.”

CNN reported that part of the central tower of the National Cathedral, the highest point in Washington, D.C., was damaged, according to spokesman Richard Weinberg. “It looks like three of the pinnacles have broken off the central tower,” Weinberg told CNN.

Pipes burst at the Pentagon, forcing it to be evacuated, the network said.

In Virginia towns close to the epicenter, the quake broke windows and knocked plates off shelves, the New York Times reported.

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.