Thousands of people were moved by the account of Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett of encountering a 12-year-old girl saying Tehillim by herself at the site of the Champlain collapse. The girl, Elisheva Cohen was saying Tehillim for her father Dr. Brad (Yaakov Reuven Hakohen) Cohen, and her uncle, Dr. Gary (Tzvi Nosson Hakohen), both missing since the collapse, Collive reported.
The two brothers are both physicians who became Torah observant as adults. Brad lives in in Bay Harbor, Florida, and Gary in Birmingham, Alabama.
“It all began one day in the bank 25 years ago,” recalls Rabbi Yaakov Saacks, who directs the Jewish Chai Center in Dix Hills, N.Y., where the Cohens had grown up. “Their mother, Deborah, whom I had never met before, came over to me and told me that her son Brad was finishing medical school in Cincinnati. During that time, he had befriended an Orthodox medical student, she said, and was interested in deepening his Jewish knowledge and observance.”
“He always asked great questions in class,” says Saacks. “He loved learning. Even as he was spending the lion’s share of his waking hours doing clinical rotations, he carved out time for Torah study. With audio cassettes and CDs, he made sure that his daily commute to and from the hospital were productively spent on Torah.”
Brad established a fully observant home with his wife Soraya and their two children, Avi and Elisheva, and his commitment to frumkeit influenced his parents, Morton and Deborah Cohen, and his older brother Gary.
“In recent years, Judaism has taken an increasingly central place in the lives of Gary and Mindy Cohen,” says Rabbi Yossi Friedman, program director at Chabad of Alabama.
The Cohens began keeping Shabbos and since their home wasn’t within walking distance to the Chabad center, they either stay home alone for Shabbos or stay with friends who live closer to Chabad. And they also keep a fully kosher home despite the hardships of obtaining kosher food in Alabama and the total lack of kosher restaurants.
Greg was in town to visit his parents, who had relocated to Florida and the two brothers were at a condominium on the 11th floor of the Champlain Towers at the time of the collapse.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)