search
'We believe heavily in miracles and never giving up'

Surfside’s Jewish community unites in face of building collapse tragedy

About half of the town’s population are thought to be Jewish; food, clothes, and other supplies donated at the local community center

Mike Salberg pictured near the remains of the collapsed Surfside building as he awaits information on missing family members, in Miami Beach, Florida on June 25, 2021. (Gianrigo MARLETTA / AFP)
Mike Salberg pictured near the remains of the collapsed Surfside building as he awaits information on missing family members, in Miami Beach, Florida on June 25, 2021. (Gianrigo MARLETTA / AFP)

SURFSIDE, United States (AFP) — The partial collapse of a multi-story residential building in the beachfront Florida town of Surfside has hit the area’s Jewish community especially hard, but it is united in the face of tragedy, even as frustrations mount over the slow search for survivors.

“We are a very tight community,” Zalmi Duchman, a 41-year-old who lives a few blocks away from the disaster scene at the Champlain Towers complex, told AFP. “We know many of the family members who live in the building, or relatives.”

Duchman, who has lived in Surfside for 20 years after growing up in nearby Miami Beach, lent a helping hand Friday at a local community center, now a gathering point for those seeking information about the 159 people still unaccounted for.

“Something like this is just impossible to expect — you go to sleep at night and then…” Duchman said.

“Obviously, it has hit us very hard, but there is still hope. As Jews, we believe heavily in miracles and never giving up, resilience, trying to stay positive in dark times.”

In Surfside, there are about 2,500 Jews — about half the town’s population — and many of them are members of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement, according to Israeli media.

Jewish men pray at the Shul of Bal Harbour after members of the community were reported missing in the partial collapse of a 12-story beachfront condo, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In many homes in the area, US and Israeli flags hang in windows or on doors.

‘Not enough is being done’

On one balcony, a resident has put up a homemade banner reading “Surfside Strong” — a phrase often adopted after tragedies in the United States.

Since the partial collapse of the building early Thursday, people have donated food, clothes, toys and other supplies, at the community center or at the Shul, the local Chabad center and synagogue.

The Shul is “really a pillar of the community,” Duchman said.

Photos of missing residents are posted at a makeshift memorial at the site of a collapsed building in Surfside, Florida, north of Miami Beach,,on June 26, 2021. (Andrea Sarcos / AFP)

But faced with the possibility that the death toll could rise much higher, and the painstakingly slow search and rescue operation, some are getting anxious and frustrated.

“Not enough is being done,” said Mike Salberg, who came from New York after the accident. Five of his family members, including his parents, are unaccounted for.

“I want answers,” he told AFP. “The families are sidelined. We’re being told that they have the best crews, but they don’t have the ability and the capacity… 40 hours later, four dead.”

Mike Salberg (R) watches the remains of the collapsed Surfside building as he awaits information on missing family members, in Miami Beach, Florida, on June 25, 2021. (Gianrigo Marletta / AFP)

He said he hoped engineers sent to the site by Israel would be able to take part in the search.

“The heat is rough — they’re trapped. Hopefully, there is still hope. There is no question about it — there are survivors,” Salberg said.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed