Two rabbis visiting from New York got caught in a powerful rip current at an unprotected stretch of Haulover Beach Tuesday and drowned, despite the heroic efforts of an off-duty cop and a lifeguard on a Jet Ski.
A friend of the two men who drowned said they chose the isolated and unguarded spot with no swimming signs posted because in Orthodox Judaism, the faith’s tenets prohibit them from being exposed to scantily clad women.
Miami-Dade police identified the men as Issac Rosenberg, 67, and Chaim Parnes, 66, of Brooklyn. Rosenberg’s first name is spelled Yitzchok, a Hebrew translation of Issac, according to his friends.
A third man, Aaron Wercberger is recovering at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. Rosenberg and Parnes were transported to Aventura Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead.
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“The preliminary information reveals that four males went to the beach. Three males entered the water to swim. Those three males all began to struggle,” said Miami-Dade Police Spokesman John Barrow.
Yona Lunger, a well-known activist in Miami-Dade’s Orthodox community who went to Aventura Hospital, said at least one of the men swam to safety and called 911 for help.
The distress call, which came in about 11 a.m., was heard by an off-duty Bal Harbour police officer Geroge Waisman who raced to the scene. Lifeguard Marcelo Lopez of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue also heard the call, and with Waisman, headed toward the men in a Jet Ski.
It was too late. Rosenberg and Parnes were recovered and taken to the hospital, but could not be revived.
The area where the men drowned at the ocean and near 110th Street is on a stretch near an inlet known for its powerful currents. The lifeguard stand right in front of where they were swimming, Lifeguard Stand 4, reads: “Swim in guarded area only” and “No lifeguard on duty.”
“We stress to people not to swim in unguarded areas of the beach,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Spokeswoman Erika Benitez.
In March, 18-year-old Darrius Rhome, a senior at Carol City High and member of the school’s baseball team, drowned after getting swept away by a current near the inlet.
Rhome and a friend jumped into the Haulover Inlet from a seawall and never surfaced. Rescuers searched for hours before finding his body. The friend was able to swim back to shore.
Lunger said the men traveled to South Florida last week with their wives and three other couples for vacation.
“Everyone is in shock,” said Lunger.
Lunger said the men went to the beach to exercise and chose the spot because it was secluded and they could swim and comply with Orthodox Judaism’s “modesty laws.”
Last Thanksgiving, Parnes, a diamond dealer, was robbed at gunpoint in North Miami after buying diamonds from an Aventura dealer earlier in the day. The assailant got away with $35,000 in diamonds and cash, according to the police report.
“If (you) take away life, (it) doesn't come back,” Parnes told WPLG Local10 at the time. “So I'm thankful for God. Today's Thanksgiving. I'm giving up big time for God.”
Rosenberg is listed as the owner of several New York properties and a company called Certified Lumber in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Rosenberg lived in Brooklyn, while Parnes lived in Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a village in Orange County.
Lunger said both men were rabbis. Rosenberg was president of Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar, a Hasidic Jewish congregation in Brooklyn, Lunger said. Parnes was active in the Satmar community as well. The bodies will be transported to New York for burial, Lunger said.
Family, friends and New York politicans took to Twitter to remember the two men.
From Eric Adams, borough president of Brooklyn: “#Brooklyn's hearts go out to the #Satmar community following the tragic drownings of Rebbes Chaim Parnes and Yitzchok Rosenberg in Miami.”
N.Y. State Assemblyman Dov Hikind tweeted a picture of himself with Rosenberg:
“Broken-hearted over the sudden passing of my good friend Satmar president Yitzchok Rosenberg,” he wrote.