The late Chabad rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Brooklyn, May 1987 (Photo/Wikimedia CC BY 3.0)
The late Chabad rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Brooklyn, May 1987 (Photo/Wikimedia CC BY 3.0)

In 1994, the Chabad rebbe gave seismological advice to S.F.

From an article published January 28, 1994

Like many Northern Californians, Chabad Rabbi Yosef Langer has long been accustomed to living with the threat of “The Big One” — the major earthquake that is expected to send the state plunging into the sea.

From a 1994 issue of J.
From a 1994 issue of J.

However, when Langer learned that a leading seismologist predicted on a radio talk-show that a massive temblor would hit San Francisco sometime last weekend, he abandoned his usual, sanguine demeanor and sought help — from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

The Brooklyn rabbi’s advice? Play it safe, and get out of town.

The message spread rapidly throughout the Chabad community. In all, about 70 local Chabadniks fled the Bay Area. They spent a nervous, nail-biting weekend in nearby towns such as Sacramento and Healdsburg, anxiously waiting for the Big One to hit, and desperately hoping that it wouldn’t.

“I didn’t sleep too much over the weekend. I also ran up about a $1,000 phone bill,” said Langer, leader of Chabad of San Francisco, who took his family to stay with friends in Sacramento for the weekend.

“We knew that many people had remained in the city,” he said. “We were concerned and hopeful that there wouldn’t be an earthquake.”

“Living around here, you hear so many predictions,” said Langer. “But this particular time, there was just a feeling. The weather was unseasonably warm; it was earthquake weather. After what had just happened in L.A., and living through the 1989 quake here, all these things put together made Hinda and myself concerned.”

The next morning, Langer placed a call to Rabbi Lieb Groner, the rebbe’s secretary at Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights, and asked him to ask Schneerson whether his family should evacuate the Bay Area. Groner asked the question, and reported that the rebbe — who has been unable to speak since suffering a massive stroke in 1992 — nodded his head affirmatively.