Hundreds have gathered every day at The Shul of Bal Harbour, a synagogue near the Florida condominium complex that partially collapsed last week, to pray that survivors will be found.
Other members of Surfside’s Jewish community have offered food, water and emotional support to search and rescue teams digging into the rubble of the 12-story Champlain Towers South.
Both responses are rooted in the Jewish faith, a source of hope and of strength to help others cope.
“There’s no rationality nor level of human intellect that can in any way encompass the enormity of what has happened here in Surfside, but this community believes that miracles are still possible. God has not changed,” Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, The Shul’s founder, said on Tuesday as search-and-rescue operations stretched into a sixth day. The official death toll stood at 12, with 149 people reported missing.
Lipskar said he had the same message for those whose loved ones were killed and those awaiting word of the missing: “Believe in the soul, which is eternal and has a home outside of this world.”
Rabbi Aryeh Citron, who regularly leads services in his Surfside home, said it was not time to mourn the missing.
“According to Jewish law, if there is a situation where people are lost and their fate is not yet known, we do not begin mourning. We continue to search until we find them,” Citron said. “We only begin mourning after we find them …. In that sense, mourning has not yet started for most people who remain behind in Surfside.”
Numerous members of Lipskar’s synagogue and Citron’s circle are among those missing. The shul and Citron’s home are both within a mile of the disaster scene.