Report from Surfside for the OU Board: 6/25/21

25 Jun 2021

Read the following report from Southern NCSY’s Rabbi Avi Fried, who was on the scene yesterday in Surfside and detailed some of the chesed efforts:

I was at the Surfside Town Center all day just trying a tiny bit to help with anything I could. I spent time talking to women missing their husbands, daughters missing their fathers, mothers missing their children. It was beyond tragic. I tried my best to give them strength, to make sure they were updated, that they had food, were comforted, felt loved and supported and were staying as calm as they could and hydrated. I walked the scene bringing them supplies, food etc….

Lauren Bardos (NCSY) and her husband were on the scene doing amazing things – including helping run the local Hatzalah operation. They set up a command center and worked around the clock treating individuals all day.

Daniel Aqua (Teach Coalition) and his wife showed up at the scene and immediately offered assistance in any way. They ran out and had supplies back on the scene even before much of the supplies arrived from local shuls, the Red Cross and others. Individuals couldn’t contact their loved ones as their phones died and Danny and his wife were the first to bring chargers, battery packs, extra extension cords and plugs for people and everyone was so grateful and asking for more. They brought much needed pens and notebooks for Hatzalah to document everything and socks for people who were tired and cold and those socks ran out fast.

They even went out a second time to buy undergarments, sweatpants, sweatshirts and thanks to Mimi Jankowitz (Teach Coalition) who was on the scene as it was handed over to the town department and red cross to give out. Mimi did so much at the scene including talking with her contacts about bringing in Israeli search teams with rescue dogs and was a tremendous help in so many ways.

I tried my best to show Governor DeSantis and his team where each grieving person was so the Governor could speak with them and give them some strength and hope that they were doing everything to find their loved ones. I then took the Consul General and his team from the Israeli Consulate to the actual building as they were not familiar with the neighborhood and I knew the back path to get access.

We were fortunate due to a fellow named Joe Zevoluni, an NCSY donor of ours and amazing Israel advocate, who gave me a yellow vest to wear to get past the police and up to the building so we could speak with the firefighters on the scene. We offered them assistance and the Israeli Consulate offered Israeli rescue teams and rescue dogs to fly in from Israel.

The scene there was devastating. Firefighters updated us on their digging efforts underground to reach people, put out fires and we saw them start with the rescue dogs. On the way back we found out from a Jewish fellow that one of the neighboring building’s power got shut off and his 90+ year old father was stuck on the 11th floor with no phone or elevator and thankfully we were able to help him.

Feeling so blessed and so grateful to work for the OU and have such amazing colleagues and support from all of you.