Deborah Berezdivin and her parents, Jeff and Clara.
Deborah Berezdivin and her parents, Jeff and Clara.

Friends describe 21-year-old Deborah Berezdivin as an “old soul,” passionate about friendship, art, conversation, life, and Jewish observance. A native of Puerto Rico, she was in Florida with her boyfriend, Ilan Naibryf, attending the funeral of a family friend who had died of COVID. She was identified as a victim of the Champlain Tower collapse on July 9.

Mushka Lipskier, co-director of Chabad at Tulane Undergrad, where Berezdivin had been an architecture student, describes her as being “super kind and warm to people around her.”

On her first day at Tulane, Berezdivin and her parents, Jeff and Clara, visited the Chabad House and requested a mezuzah for her dorm room.

Throughout her time in Tulane, Berezdivin attended Shabbat at Chabad on a weekly basis, lighting candles and enjoying the company of her fellow Jews, especially the many Spanish-speakers among them, whom Lipskier describes as a “family unit.”

According to Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, director of Chabad of Puerto Rico, her paternal grandparents are among the founders of Jewish life in the territory, steeped in Jewish tradition, values, and generosity. On her mother’s side, her grandparents are pillars of Judaism in their home country of Costa Rica.

An active volunteer, she would often be found at Chabad on Thursday nights and Fridays, baking challah, preparing salads, and plating food for as many as 300 students who would show up on a Friday night.

Just before the onset of the COVID lockdowns, she and her friend Rebecca Lubin were active in arranging an intergenerational event connecting local Holocaust survivors with students, in tandem with Chabad and the local JCC. The event never took place, and Berezdivin soon transferred to GWU in the fall of 2020.

Yet, even after she left Tulane, the two continued to study Torah with Lipskier over Zoom.