Luis Sadovnic, Moises Rodan and Andres Levine, residents of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, had more in common than just their address: The three Venezuelans went to the same Jewish high school in Caracas. They’re still missing after the condo building collapsed last Thursday.
“It’s something that we weren’t expecting. They all left Venezuela looking for a better future and better opportunities,” said Esther Beniflah Melul, who attended the same high school and is close friends with Levine. “Venezuela is the kind of country where these things could happen but not here. We’re all in shock.”
The three Champlain Towers residents are in their late 20s and are graduates of Colegio Moral y Luces Herzl-Bialik, a private Jewish school. Beniflah said that many graduates of the high school went to South Florida in early adulthood for college or work when the economy deteriorated in Venezuela under the leadership of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. She said that the three were religious and active with the strong Venezuelan Jewish community in the area.
“The Jewish community has been so supportive,” Beniflah said, explaining that the community has organized donations, prayer groups and psychological help for family and friends. “They care a lot. … Some of these people don’t even know the victims.”
Levine, 26, came to the United States about seven years ago after finishing college in Venezuela. Beniflah, who has known him since she was 12, described him as a private person and a straight-shooter who was always genuine and focused on the positive.
“He’d only hang out with real friends, and he’d only do whatever made him happy,” she said. “That was my favorite thing about him. We always got the real him.”
Levine worked in finance and was engaged to be married in August. His fiance was not in the building.
“He was about to get married in August. We had so many plans, so many things to do. … I was going to have dinner with him that Thursday night. We spoke the night before. I just can’t believe he’s gone.”
Levine was a cousin of Moises Rodan, who lived in a unit on the third floor.
“They had two apartments in the building, and it was kind of like those neighbors who are always walking from one unit to other,” Beniflah said.
Rodan had just graduated from the University of Florida, where he studied computer engineering and was a part of the Hispanics in Electrical and Computer Engineering, a student group. One month ago on his LinkedIn page, he posted a photo of himself beaming in his cap and gown in front of a Gator statue.
“I am happy to share that I have completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Florida,” he wrote. “It has been an amazing journey of hard work and consistency. Special thanks to my family, mentors, and friends who supported me during this important chapter of my life. Go Gators!”
The third classmate from the Jewish high school in Caracas, Luis Sadovnic, is also a UF graduate. There he met Nicole “Nicky” Langesfeld, who lived with him in the Champlain Towers. The two recently married in a private civil ceremony, due to pandemic restrictions, according to The Associated Press.
According to his LinkedIn page, Luis finished an MBA from Nova Southeastern University in 2019. Nicky graduated from the University of Miami School of Law the same year. She is an associate at Reed Smith law firm in Miami and is a commercial litigator.
Friends and family of Nicky and Luis have organized a GoFundMe page in order to help their families with travel and general expenses. Nicky’s family is from Argentina, and Luis still has family members in Venezuela.
“Nicky prides herself on her family, friends, and pets. Her presence is larger than life, and her sense of humor knows no bounds,” the GoFundMe page organizer wrote, adding that she loved to spoil her pets, a guinea pig and two dogs, and go to the beach and out to restaurants.
“Luis is down to earth, caring, and loving. He would do anything to protect Nicky. He loves playing golf with his friends and spending time with Nicky,” the page says. Luis’ resume says that he’s trilingual (English, Spanish and Hebrew) and that he was on the Venezuelan National Soccer Team in the 15-17 age range.