Australia's Jewish community was in shock Friday morning, one day after a horrific car accident along the main Sydney-to-Melbourne highway took the lives of longtime educators Zev and Rochel Simons.

According to Australian news reports, the couple perished when their Toyota minivan crossed the median and was struck by a tanker truck. The driver of the truck, a 39-year-old man whose identity was not released by authorities, also died in the crash. Wreckage and the threat of fuel igniting blocked traffic on the arterial Hume Highway in both directions for hours.

The couple, Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim in Sydney and parents of 10 children, were headed to a wedding in Melbourne. Their youngest children were attending a sleep-away camp at the time.

Veteran Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Devorah Groner, director of the N'shei Chabad women's organization in Melbourne and a close family friend, said that she was expecting to see the Simons at the Thursday afternoon wedding.

"It's a terrible shock," she said.

Daughter Leah Lang, preschool director at the Chabad Jewish Center in Camarillo, Calif., described her parents as completely dedicated to their community and educating its youngsters. Zev Simons, 54, who taught and directed Jewish Studies at the Yeshiva Primary School Sydney for 28 years, also distributed Chasidic books on behalf of the Chabad-Lubavitch publishing arm as a service to the community. Rochel Simons, 48, was the administrator of a women's mikvah and a preschool teacher for many years.

Zev and Rochel Simons
Zev and Rochel Simons

"They were on a lifelong mission from the Rebbe," said Lang, referring to the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. "My father wanted to finish smichah, or rabbinical ordination, and the Rebbe told him that he shouldn't stop teaching because that was more important for the community."

"They gave their lives to the community," said son-in-law Rabbi Yossi Cunin, co-director of Chabad of the Hills in Beverly Hills, Calif. "He's run a winter camp every year out of his own time, just to make sure that there was a place for the local Jewish kids."

Lang noted that when her father, a native Australian, was a student at the central Lubavitch yeshiva in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the Rebbe instructed him to move back to Australia in order to marry her mother. She said that the Rebbe described her as a yiras shamayim, a G‑d-fearing woman.

"She was that type of woman," explained Cunin. "She was always at the hospital when somebody needed something, like if there was a newborn.

"When she would come to our home to visit," he added, "she was happy just being at home with the grandchildren. I'd see her washing the dishes and would tell her she didn't have to, but she'd say that she had to anyway."

"I looked up to them as true Chasidim," said son-in-law Rabbi Aryeh Lang, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Camarillo, Calif. "They were a real example of pious and G‑d-fearing people.

"As they inspired our family and those of the thousands of children who went through their school," continued Lang, "may their life inspire others to strengthen Jewish education around the world."

Zev and Rochel Simons, who will be buried on Monday, leave behind daughters Chami Cunin, Leah Lang, Pessa Kirschenbaum, and Mushkee, Shainee and Bassie Simons; and sons Mendel, Moishe, Zalmen and Yehuda Simons.

A memorial fund has been established at