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Venezuela’s tight-knit Jewish community is still mourning its Surfside victims

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CARACAS, Venezuela (JTA) — The Champlain Towers building collapse in Surfside, Florida, impacted a range of communities whose members lived in the diverse Miami-Dade area: immigrants from across Latin America, Jewish retirees from the Northeast, Jews from Puerto Rico.

One of them still feeling the most pain months later is the Jewish community of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital city.

In the wake of the collapse, seniors Christina Beatriz Elvira and Leon Oliwkowicz, both Venezuelan Jews, were among the first victims to have their remains recovered. Then came the bodies of Luis Sadovnic, Moises “El Chino” Rodán and Andres Levine. The three young men, who were all in their 20s, were raised in the small Jewish community surrounded by the lush El Ávila National Park in the heart of Caracas.

Miami had become an economic steppingstone and new home for the young Venezuelans, just as it had for hundreds of other community members over the past decade.

Many Jewish communities in Latin America are described as “tight knit,” but Venezuela’s is unique in the region for its intense closeness. Here everyone is part of one extended family — even though Venezuelan Jews often use the Hebrew word “kehilla,” for community.

Few agreed to speak about the tragedy in its aftermath, or months later. They were instead focused on providing moral and financial support to family members of the victims.

But those who did speak to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency emphasized how strongly the deaths of their fellow community members reverberated throughout the country.

“The entire community feels this tragedy in the most innermost core of our beings,” said Miguel Truzman, vice president of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela, known by its Spanish acronym CAIV. “They were boys that we watched grow up; the whole community is deeply traumatized and devastated by this tragedy.”

The Caracas area’s Hebraica Jewish community center — the community’s only social, cultural and religious center, which serves as a country club, sports facility, elementary school and meeting hub — put out a statement in July saying the Surfside events “will undoubtedly shape the rest of our lives.”

Besides having shared a joint address at the Champlain Towers South condo building, the three young Venezuelans had another thing in common before moving to the US: They all attended Colegio Moral y Luces Herzl-Bialik, a........

© The Times of Israel

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