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State Sen. Pizzo On Surfside Tragedy, Rabbi Lipskar On Finding Hope, And A Key West Cruise Update

a view of the champlain towers south from the water
Al Diaz
Miami Herald
Rescue crews continued working through the weekend at the site of Champlain Towers South, which collapsed early Thursday morning.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo makes the case for condo reform following the Surfside tragedy. Local Rabbi Sholom Lipskar makes the case for finding hope amongst grief. And an update on the fight over cruising in Key West.

On this Thursday, July 1, episode of Sundial

State Senator Jason Pizzo

The search and rescue operations at the Champlain Towers South collapse were halted for 15 hours Thursday after firefighters noticed the remaining portion of the building was unstable and posed significant risk. Yesterday, rescuers uncovered the bodies of two children, bringing the total deaths caused by the collapse to 18 with nearly 150 people still missing. President Joe Biden was in Surfside today meeting with the family members of victims as well as those engaged in the search and rescue operations.

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Democratic State Sen. Jason Pizzo’s district includes Surfside. He explained to Danny Rivero on Sundial the critical changes he believes are needed to hold condos more accountable for repairs.

“We’ve had bills as it relates to condos to increase the actual responsibilities and duties and obligations of [condo] board members. It’s still an overwhelmingly voluntary position with little teeth,” Pizzo said.

Pizzo pointed to the recently released engineering report from 2018 that called for significant repairs to the Champlain Towers South building. Furthermore, he argued the recertification process for condominiums should take into consideration where buildings are located and for those in coastal communities, that face significant water damage, there should be higher scrutiny involved in the recertification process.

07-01-2021 SUNDIAL SEG A Surfside Condo Search and Rescue.mp3

Rabbi Lipskar on Finding Hope

Surfside is home to a large Jewish community that is continuing to grieve the loss from the Champlain Towers South collapse. An estimated 50 people of the remaining 145 are expected to be Jewish. The Shul of Bal Harbour is located less than a mile from the Surfside collapse site.

Rabbi Sholom Lipskar has been leading the synagogue there for more than 40 years. The congregation has been supporting the family members of victims and rescue workers with food and faith counseling. He spoke with WLRN’s Veronica Zaragovia about the stories he’s heard from many individuals outside of the Jewish community who’ve been impacted by the tragedy.

“I met this woman and man, who I never met before, who both said, ‘Thank you very much.’ And the man asks, ‘Can I hug you?’ And I asked him, ‘What happened?’ So he says to me, ‘I want you to know, I’m not Jewish. My wife and I just got the worst news, they found our son who is not alive. But I will never be able to thank you enough. I will never think about the Jewish people differently. I love the Jewish people,'" Lipskar said.

Rabbi Lipskar explained there weren’t many members of the synagogue that lived in the condo. But there were many people the congregation knew because the community was so small and integrated. He offered some parting wisdom for those continuing to experience grief.

“Hope is a very interesting phenomenon. Hope is not just hoping for what’s going to happen in the future. Hope is a present emotion. And it helps you now,"Lipskar said. "It’s not only what’s going to happen, because even when it doesn’t happen — God forbid — the fact that you had hope in that moment allowed you to live with a little semblance of normalcy.”

07-01-2021 SUNDIAL SEG B Surfside Shul.mp3

Key West Cruise Update

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed into law a preemption to three ballot items overwhelmingly approved by Key West voters last November to limit the size of cruise ships in the Key West port.

WLRN's Monroe County reporter Nancy Klingner spoke with Mayor Teri Johnston and local residents who were angered by the governor’s decision but were not ultimately surprised, given his long standing support of the cruise industry. The Key West city commission will be meeting next week with plans for any legal action the city can take. As it stands now, cruising will restart in Key West as early as September.

07-01-2021 SUNDIAL SEG C KW Cruise Ship Law.mp3

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.