The city of Chelyabinsk was rocked into action this morning when an estimated 10-ton meteor showered over the Ural Mountains in Central Russia, setting off blasts, injuring more than 500 people and causing glass to shatter across the region.

The windows of the Chelyabinsk Jewish Community Center were included in the damage. Chelyabinsk was apparently hit the hardest by the meteor.

“Many are frightened in the city,” says Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Meir Kirsh, who serves as the city's chief rabbi, “and we are calling for everyone to gather together tonight for the Shabbat prayers and meal.”

“We estimate size of the meteor was a few meters,” says a statement in Russian on the Russian Academy of Sciences, “and fell into the atmosphere at a speed of at around 33,000 miles per hour, causing fragments at high speed [to send a] powerful glow and a strong shock wave.”

The statement says that most of the falling meteor evaporated, and only fragments could fall to the ground as meteorites: “Usually, the total mass of meteorites is found no more 1 percent to 5 percent of the initial mass.”

A similar phenomenon happened in Russia in 2002.

As for the current incident, “there was panic,” Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, told the Associated Press. “People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people's houses to check if they were okay. We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was, and we heard a really loud thundering sound.”

Rabbi Meir Kirsh, director of the Jewish Community Center of Chelyabinsk
Rabbi Meir Kirsh, director of the Jewish Community Center of Chelyabinsk

The stained-glass windows of the synagogue, which was refurbished in 2000 after years of disrepair, were damaged.

Nevertheless, Kirsh says the synagogue will be cleaned up in time for tonight’s prayer service.

Some experts predict that additional meteorites might rain over the city at around 11 p.m.

“We hope that together,” states the rabbi, “we could give each other faith and encouragement, and educate everyone what they need to do to stay out of danger.”