407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

On June 24, 2021, at approximately 1:30 a.m., the Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium building in Surfside, just outside Miami, collapsed. The video of the collapse was horrifying and if you are like me, you wondered how anybody could have survived. Eighteen people have been confirmed dead and there are still 145 people unaccounted for. We all pray for those 145 people and hope for the best while expecting the worst.

Surfside is a very Jewish community. As a Miami suburb and located on the beach, it has been a popular place for Jews to live and build a community. With many friends in the area, I was concerned if anybody that I knew lived in the building and have followed the story closely. While so far it appears none of my friends lived in the building, there were employees of Jewish organizations who lived there. Luckily, the ones I have heard of are all safe. Members of the Miami Beach JCC lived there, and some remain unaccounted for. Family members of my friends lived in the building and remain missing. My heart breaks for what they are going through. The one story that remains with me is that of Jay Kleiman, who flew to Miami for a friend’s funeral and spent one night at an apartment in Champlain Towers South. June 24, 2021 was that night. He is among the missing, presumed dead. As I read the article about Jay, my friend Mark Baranek, Jay’s flag football coach, is quoted in the article. It’s one degree of separation.

This is the essence of the Jewish community. We are closely tied to each other. It’s only a degree or two until you find the common friends, relatives, or associates. I’ve never met Jay Kleiman, yet we are tied together by Mark Baranek. There are many others who are missing that I’ve never met but we are tied together with a common friend or relative. Being part of the Jewish community is being part of the Jewish mishpacha (family). And family takes care of each other.

As we prepare for Shabbat this week, let’s hold our families, our friends, and those we have in common just a little bit closer. Let’s make that phone call or FaceTime with our family members or friends just to say hello and Shabbat Shalom. Let’s make sure we connect with those that are important to us. We never know when it’s our June 24, 2021. We never know what the future brings but we can act today. In the words of the Alter of Novardik, “A person should be willing to give up all his tomorrows for one today, so that he doesn’t end up wasting all his todays on one tomorrow.” Let’s make sure that we don’t waste today.

If you want to donate to help those in Surfside, The Greater Miami Jewish Federation has a fund set up to help. You can donate to that fund by clicking here.

Shabbat Shalom,