Florida Jewish community hit hard by condo building collapse

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At least 35 of the 159 people still missing after the terrifying condo collapse in south Florida are thought to be Jewish, and Israel has sent crews from Tel Aviv to help the rescue effort.

Search-and-rescue teams from Israel arrived in Florida to search for survivors in the ruins of what is left of the 12-story building, WPLG reported Saturday. Mexico sent a team as well, Reuters reported.

Volunteers with Hatzalah, an emergency medical service organization for Jewish communities around the world, also came to the site to support local firefighters and rescue workers, according to reports.

Israel is also providing food, clothes, medication and other aid for the rescue effort, Israel’s Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky told The Times of Israel Friday.

Elbaz-Starinsky said more than two dozen of the missing were Jewish and had links to Israel. It was not immediately clear if any were Israeli citizens. Some are believed to be Orthodox Jews from Russia, he said.

“To see the agony, the pain, the worry … we see also how hope slowly … diminishes,” Elbaz-Starinsky said about the time he was spending with relatives needing support.

The 12-story apartment building partially collapsed and “pancaked” early Thursday near Miami. What caused the 40-year-old building to collapse in a matter of seconds remains unknown.

An orthodox Jewish organization called Chesed Shel Emes, Hebrew for “kindness from truth,” was also on standby at the site to help with rescue efforts, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The group’s goal is to recover all parts of the body, from blood to human tissue, that must be buried according to Jewish religious law. They hope to begin searching once they get permission from the authorities.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he was praying for the victims.

“Our prayers are with the families anxiously waiting for news of their loved ones in Miami. We hope for the recovery of the survivors and send heartfelt condolences to those who have lost family members,” Rivlin said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett deployed a team that includes Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, who plans to travel to Surfside Saturday night.

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