This rental house is home to the Surfside Minyan, which lost several members in the Champlain Towers South collapse. (Photo/Forward)
This rental house is home to the Surfside Minyan, which lost several members in the Champlain Towers South collapse. (Photo/Forward)

‘There is no Kohen:’ A minyan in the shadow of disaster mourns its losses

About 30 people packed into the living room and dining room of the white stucco house Saturday as a Torah scroll was laid on the bimah and the gabbai prepared to summon a kohein for the first aliyah. But there were no kohanim among them, because this congregation’s was in the rubble.

Ein kaan kohein,” the gabbai said. There is no Kohen present.

It was a grim reminder of the hole left in Surfside Minyan, a Shabbat-only prayer group that meets in a rental home near the 12-story Champlain Towers South, which collapsed on June 24, burying nearly 150 people in a mountain of debris.

Surfside sits on a barrier island that is home to several synagogues and a handful of independent minyanim, and many of the thousands of Orthodox Jews who live here frequent more than one — especially during the summer, when a long walk can mean arriving drenched in perspiration or rain. No Saturday-morning prayer service was a shorter walk from the Champlain towers — about one block down and one block over — than Surfside Minyan.

Six of Surfside Minyan’s 20 families were in the tower when it collapsed. Three families escaped harm. From the other families, four people are missing.

Across from the house Saturday were several police cars and a semi-trailer from the South Florida Search and Rescue agency. The weekly bulletin, posted on the front door, said the congregation was praying for “a clear and open miracle”: the rescue of Tzvi and Itty Ainsworth, Henry (Chaim) Rosenberg, and Brad Cohen. (The Ainsworths’ bodies were recovered two days later.)

Louis Keene
Louis Keene

Louis Keene is a staff reporter at the Forward. He can be reached at [email protected]forward.com or on Twitter @thislouis.

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Content reprinted with permission from the Forward.