Religious institutions step up to help after Surfside tragedy, special mass to be held Friday

The South Florida community is eager to help the victims of Thursday’s condominium collapse in Surfside, including religious institutions.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The South Florida community is eager to help the victims of Thursday’s condominium collapse in Surfside, including religious institutions.

Local 10 News has learned that many people who lived in the Chaplain Towers South building regularly attended temple at The Shul of Bal Harbour.

And just four blocks away from the collapse, donations are pouring in to The Shul Jewish Community cCCenter.

As the search continues for at least 99 people unaccounted for, there are several others who were pulled from the building and are now displaced.

The American Red Cross and local leaders are assisting those residents, but we’re also seeing an abundance of help coming from the Jewish community.

“I have a friend that just traveled all the way from Boca (Raton),” Mark Weinschneiter said. “He’s missing three of his family members and his father just passed away two weeks ago. And this man that’s missing lost his family from covid about a year ago, and I believe his wife as well in this experience. A lot of trauma. And what are they doing? They’re coming together to pray.”

Many of the families affected by the collapse were of Jewish faith. They say the donations at The Shul of Bal Harbour are for everyone affected – relatives searching for loved ones and families who have lost everything.

“When God gives you obstacles, use them as an opportunity to grow and understand that there’s a bigger picture,” Weinschneiter said. “You know, we’re not saying there’s a reason for this to happen, but if you can take a life lesson of community, of prayer, of togetherness, of understanding that even though the world is crazy, to think of another person – look how many people are going all the way to the community center here to bring donations. There’s so many donations right now.”

The synagogue received so many donations throughout the day of everything from mattresses to food to bottled water, and even kids toys.

One business owner said he saw the news coverage of the tragedy and knew he needed to do something to help.

“People lost everything. They don’t have nothing,” said Shlomi Ezra, who owns Soho Restaurant. “So for mattresses, blankets, pillows, shirts, underwear, everything – kids toys. So that’s what we did. We got the community together and we filled a truck to help them out.”

So many donations were received that The Shul is running out of room inside, so they are asking for people to make financial donations by going to

ALSO SEE: How to help victims of Surfside building collapse.

The South Florida community is eager to help the victims of Thursday’s condominium collapse in Surfside, including religious institutions.

Meanwhile, a special Catholic mass took place Friday morning for all of those affected by the collapse.

Saint Joseph Church, which is near the Champlain Towers South, held the mass at 8 a.m.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Juan Sosa, told Local 10 News that 10 families who are registered with his church lived in the part of the condo building that collapsed. He said the church has called them, but they are not answering.

He said he’s praying that they were out of town when their condos were destroyed.

“I know it’s a tragedy, but we’re all together trying to alleviate the situation or the pain caused by it,” Sosa said.

Sosa said 12 families that live at Champlain Towers South are members of his church and only two families have been accounted for.

“Families. Some of them are husband and wife, others have children with them,” Sosa said. “I’m scared, I’m waiting. I’m praying for them to be rescued. I just hope that they were out on a trip or away from Miami at this time.”

The pastor told Local 10 News reporter Madeleine Wright that he never could have imagined something like this would happen and encouraged people to lean into their faith for strength.

One parishioner said she doesn’t usually come to mass at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning but that she felt the need to come today so she could pray for the victims.

“I pray for the people that are affected to find their family, their friends. I hope they find everyone,” Nancy Jalbert said through tears.


About the Authors:

Jenise Fernandez joined the Local 10 News team in November 2014. She is thrilled to be back home reporting for the station she grew up watching. Jenise, who is from Miami and graduated from Florida International University, also interned at Local 10 while she was in college.

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for