Friends, Family Describe Jews Missing In Miami

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A man hangs a photo on a fence of someone missing near the site of an oceanfront condo building that partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., Friday, June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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Families around the world remained stuck between waning hopes and widening fears Saturday, two days after the stunning collapse of a 12-story condominium near Miami.

At least five people were killed and more than 150 people remained unaccounted for as rescuers continued to dig through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside. The building was home to an international mix of foreign retirees, South American immigrants and Orthodox Jews, all with anxious loved ones across the globe.

Here are the stories of some of the missing:

TZVI AND INGRID “ITTY” AINSWORTH

Tzvi and Ingrd “Itty” Ainsworth were celebrating the birth of two new grandchildren. Their son in South Africa recently had a baby and their son in Florida had a baby just days ago, their niece Chana Harrel told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The couple, who are in their 60s, lived in Australia for nearly two decades before returning to South Florida to be near their children. The couple had seven children and many live in South Florida, including their daughter just blocks away, she said.

“Every person she encountered, ever in her life, became her friend. Everyone was treated as equals,” Chana Wasserman wrote in a Mother’s Day blog post to her mother Itty last year. “The guy at the laundromat, the guy working at the fruit market … ”

Ingrid struggled with chronic pain issues, but didn’t let that darken her mood. She tried to focus on the positive, a sunny day, a long car ride that would seem tedious to many she reframed as a chance to talk and catch up, he daughter wrote.

“I know I will never be able to match my mother’s pure enthusiasm for life but it’s inspiring to watch,” Wasserman wrote.

Itty’s mother, a Holocaust survivor living in Miami Beach, is battling cancer and doesn’t know about the tragedy.

“They didn’t tell her. She’s not well,” Harrel. said. “It’s absolutely horrific.”

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BRAD AND GARY COHEN

Brothers Brad and Gary Cohen were both medical doctors who were active in their local communities. Brad Cohen was married to Soriya Cohen. She has spent hours outside the condo building, showing pictures of the siblings on her phone to anyone who will listen, desperate for updates.

“We need every bit of help we can get. This is the difference between life and death for so many people including possibly my husband if he’s still alive,” she told CBS News 4.

Dr. Brad Cohen was a popular orthopedic surgeon who specialized in sports medicine. A woman who answered the phone at his office Friday said, with sadness in her voice, that his patients adored him. He did his residency at the State University of Stony Brook in New York and a fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, according to his website.

His brother, Dr. Gary Cohen was a physician at Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center in Alabama, and was also active in his local synagogue there.

“He spent many years providing care to our Veterans. He is part of the Tuscaloosa VAMC family and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this incredibly difficult time,” according to a statement from John Merkle, director of the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.

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DAVID AND BONNIE EPSTEIN

David and Bonnie Epstein lived in unit 901 with their dog Chase, said Bonnie’s cousin Joey Feldman.

David was a retired successful real estate investor who loved to jet ski and kite surf. The couple have a son who lives in New York.

Feldman said the family is very small.

“Bonnie was like my sister growing up,” said Feldman, who lives in Los Angeles. “She took me to my first concert.”

He said he is devastated but is praying for a miracle.

“I am holding out hope,” he said. “I came into work to get my mind off of it. But no sleep.”

MYRIAM CASPI NOTKIN and ARNOLD NOTKIN

Myriam Caspi Notkin, 81, and her husband, Arnold “Arnie” Notkin, 87, married about 20 years ago after losing their spouses, according to a family friend.

“They were a happy couple. We’re hoping for a miracle,” said Fortuna Smukler, a North Miami Beach commissioner who grew up with Myriam Notkin’s three daughters. When they ran into each other as adults, Notkin always recalled her friendship with Smukler’s mother, who died 40 years ago.

“Every time Myriam would see me, she always had to make a point of saying how wonderful my mother was,” Smukler said. “She was very thoughtful.”

Smukler also knew Arnie Notkin dating back to his days as a physical education teacher and coach at Leroy D. Fienberg Elementary School in South Beach in the 1960s. He had an engaging personality and always had a story to tell.

“He had students who became famous, and he had to tell me about them, how they were good or mischievous,” she said.

ILIAN NAIBRYF

Ilian Naibryf has been an active member of the Jewish community at the University of Chicago since arriving at the school three years ago, said Rabbi Yossi Brackman of the school’s Rohr Chabad.

Naibryf, who just finished his junior year, served as the president of the Chabad House’s student board for the past year. He and his girlfriend were in Florida to attend a funeral of a friend who had died of COVID-19, his parents told CNN.

“He is a really great guy, very friendly, always has a smile on his face and is just a really all-around well-liked person,” Brackman said.

Brackman said the Rohr Chabad community is distraught but hopeful.

“Our message is one of hope and we encourage everyone to pray and be kind at this difficult time for many people,” he said. “We believe in miracles, seen them and hope to see them again.”

(AP)