MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Two Jewish communities have been joined in mourning one day after two rabbis from New York got caught in a rip current off the Haulover Inlet and drowned.
According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Rabbis Chaim Parnes and Yitzchak Rosenberg died after going for a swim off Haulover Inlet, late Tuesday morning. Officials said both men and a third man, identified as Aaron Wercberger, were pulled out by a rip current.
Wercberger was the only survivor. He was able to swim to shore and was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he continues to recover, Wednesday.
Parnes was 66 and Rosenberg was 67. The two religious figures were from New York, but they called South Florida home. One day after the tragedy, there was a somber service at Beth Yeshaya Synagogue on Miami Beach in their honor.
Meanwhile, a sea of mourners in the streets of Brooklyn remembered the men. “This is really a very painful moment for this community and this congregation,” said a mourner.
The bodies of the deceased were loaded onto a private jet and flown back to Brooklyn where, the NYPD said, at least 10,000 people attended their funeral services in one of the largest ultra-orthodox Jewish areas in the city.
Parnes was part of Beth Yeshaya Kerestir, which is within the Jewish Educational Leadership Institute and Rosenberg was part of a different synagogue.
Tuesday afternoon, mourners paid their respects outside Aventura Hospital for the two men who, according to friends and acquaintances, were both highly respected and admired.
Late Tuesday evening, mourners gathered at Beth Yeshaya Kerestir to remember the two men. Rabbi Israel Frankforter referred to Parnes as a pillar of the community. “[He] really became dear to me and dear to the community, and it’s a tragic loss,” he said.
David Golowinski, who knew Rosenberg well, said he feels devastated by the loss of his friend. “I was shocked. I mean, I had to sit down,” he said. “I was just taken aback.”
An off-duty Bal Harbor police officer spotted the men struggling in the current and was the first to jump in to save them. Thirty firefighters and seven ocean rescue personnel were involved in the rescue effort.
Officials said Parnes and Rosenberg became unconscious before rescuers were able to bring them ashore. Lifeguards performed CPR on the victims before paramedics transported them to Aventura Hospital. Doctors at Aventura Hospital attempted to resuscitate Parnes and Rosenberg but were unable to save them.
Parnes was also a jeweler who appeared in a November 2015 story on 7News where he was the victim of a robbery. He was beaten during the incident, but he maintained a positive outlook. “I feel lucky. I’m alive,” he said. “I’m healthy. I have my wife, my kids.”
Though he survived that brush with death, he died seven months later by the force of a rip current.
According to police, the victims were swimming in an unguarded area.
Rabbi Israel Frankforter says the group was swimming in a less crowded area with no lifeguards because their orthodox religion prefers they stay away from women in little clothing or bathing suits.
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