EKC director remembers camp counselor following his untimely death

EKC director remembers camp counselor following his untimely death

Reuben Eli Mitrani
Reuben Eli Mitrani

Scores of Emma Kaufmann campers, counselors and faculty traveled to Harrisburg last week to attend the funeral of one of their own.

Reuben Eli Mitrani, 20, who died Monday of a brain hemorrhage while studying in Switzerland, was remembered Friday, Sept. 28, during a standing-room-only funeral at the Jewish Community Center of Harrisburg. According to the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, mourners came from as far away as Japan, and the president of Colorado College, where Mitrani was a student, flew in for the service.

They came from Pittsburgh, too.

“He was a camper since he was 9 or 10 years old,” said EKC Director Sam Bloom, who spoke at the funeral. “He was like one of those campers who at first was begging to go home because everyone feels a little homesick at first, but he stuck it out like most kids do and it became his second home.”

That may be an understatement.

Mitrani rose to become a counselor in training and finally a camp counselor. This past summer was his fourth at EKC as a staff member.

“He was a remarkable counselor,” Bloom said. He was loved by many; he brought joy to all his kids and the staff he worked with. He made a major impact on people’s lives; he was just a good leader and role model and a teacher.”

Perhaps one quality that made Mitrani stand out, according to Bloom, was his ability to make himself a confidant to the campers.

“People would say, ‘he would sit with me, talk with me, listen, give support. He would give me advice. He made [the camping experience] a lot easier,’ ” Bloom said.

EKC campers and staff came from all points for the funeral.

“We took about five kids and staff,” Bloom said, “but many more went on their own. … There were a whole bunch of other campers and people flying in.”

According to the Patriot-News, Mitrani’s mother, Donna Orbach, kept a blog while she and her husband, Albert Mitrani, sat by their son’s bedside in Geneva. In that blog, she remembered a young boy who asked very existential questions such as, “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?”

Bloom also said Mitrani was worldly beyond his years.

“I wanted his parents to know what kind of person he was,” he said. “He had done a lot of traveling in his life; that’s part of why he was what he was.”

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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