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Michigan teen dies hiking in Alaska; Chabad center helps bring him home

Local rabbis contributed to making the arrangements, hosting the other Jewish campers and offering grief counseling.

Simon Mirkes. Credit: Courtesy.

A Jewish teenager from the Detroit area died suddenly on July 17 while on a Camp Tamarack hiking trip in Alaska.

Simon Mirkes, 16, of Farmington Hills, Mich., collapsed and died, reportedly of cardiac issues, in Kenai Fjords National Park, a month into a group hike through the Harding Icefield trail, per park officials.

Officials reported that resuscitation attempts by paramedics from a LifeMed helicopter were unsuccessful.

The deceased’s family reached out to Chabad Lubavitch-Alaska Jewish Campus, in the state capital of Anchorage, to ensure that all medical-examiner processes were performed under halachah, Jewish law. Rabbi Yosef and Esty Greenberg, co-directors of the Chabad center, arranged for the transportation of the body from Kenai, Alaska, to Michigan via Anchorage.

At Camp Tamarack’s request, Chabad provided local sleeping arrangements for the other 30 campers, as well as professional counselors and hot meals. Rabbi Greenberg and associate Rabbi Levi Glitsenstein conducted a service in memory of the teen.

“We explained to them that there is no doubt that their friend, who is now in heaven, wants to see them continue with life, and that’s the best way they can give him joy,” Greenberg told JNS.

Before the deceased was taken to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Chabad conducted a funeral procession service outside of the Alaska Jewish Campus that included members of the local Jewish community.

Greenberg told JNS that, save for a relatively minor bear altercation many years ago, this was the only emergency incident he has heard of in the 30 years of Tamarack Camps-led excursions to the area.

Campers have been coming to Chabad for Shabbat each year.

The deceased family’s rabbi, Michael Moskowitz of the Reform synagogue Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, officiated the funeral at the Dorfman Chapel on Friday at noon, with burial at the Shalom Memorial Park in Livonia, Mich.

The boy is survived by his parents, Scott and Michelle, of Farmington Hills; his sister Samantha; his grandparents, Edward and Cheryl Tunick; and many other family members.

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