Quake damages shul,school, artists studio

SEATTLE — The Jewish institutions closest to the epicenter of last week's earthquake — synagogues in Tacoma and Olympia — were spared, but three locations in Seattle suffered significantly.

The Seattle Hebrew Academy, Temple De Hirsch Sinai and the studio of prominent Jewish artist Akiva Segan all sustained serious damage in the 6.8 magnitude quake last week.

The Hebrew Academy's historic building on the north end of the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, a gay enclave, was closed by the city of Seattle for safety reasons. The quake loosened decorative bricks in parapets high above the playground, the front entrance and the back of the school. Plaster cracked and fell from ceilings in the auditorium and several classrooms in the school built in 1909.

The academy's headmaster, Rabbi Shmuel Kay, said three children suffered minor injuries during the quake, including one girl who was hit on her arm by falling plaster. She was taken to a hospital, treated and released. Two boys had minor neck injuries, possibly from diving under their desks during the earthquake.

Teachers and parents carefully removed essential equipment from the school at the end of last week and over the weekend. Day school students went back to class on Monday at Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation on Mercer Island.

Rebecca Almo, president of the Orthodox day school's board of directors, said the families and staff at Seattle Hebrew Academy were overwhelmed by the synagogue's kindness in hosting its students.

"Their community mindedness is really heartwarming. I can't thank them enough," Almo said last week.

Kay hopes students and staff would be able to move back to the school in a week or two, after the decorative bricks on the top of the four-story school are removed.

The school does not have earthquake insurance, but it has applied to the federal government for emergency assistance. A city inspector estimated the damage at $100,000.

A newer part of the building, which houses the Stroum Jewish Community Center preschool at Seattle Hebrew Academy, was undamaged in the quake and declared safe by the city of Seattle. That part of the school has remained open.

The city of Seattle declared the Pioneer Square building in which artist Segan works unsafe after the earthquake created a brand-new entrance — a large hole in the wall of an upper floor.

Segan is best known for his series of Holocaust remembrance drawings series "Under the Wings of G-D," which he has been working on since 1991.

He said his artwork was not damaged in the quake, and he and a few friends crossed the police tape and removed as much as they could from the building soon afterward. At the end of last week, he was unsure of the fate of several large pieces and was in need of a new "earthquake-safe" place to store his work.

"My nerves? Frayed! Nonetheless I'm really thankful I've got most of the 'Wings' works out and even though I haven't a clue where to get them stored, an earthquake-proof and fireproof-safe building is my quest," Segan wrote in an e-mail to friends and supporters.