As the Campus Rabbi at the University of Miami, I have the opportunity to meet thousands of college students. Some I get to know more and some I only meet briefly. I had met Eitan with his Mom when they came for a visit prior to coming to school here at UM. We spoke briefly and shared the common experience of having both spent time at Camp Avoda.
When Eitan came to campus, he didn't spend too much time at Hillel. He came to a Shabbat dinner or two at the beginning of the school year, but joined AEPI and used that as his outlet for a Jewish community.
On Erev Shabbat during the last weeks of April, I called Eitan's mom Lise and spoke to her about Eitan's birthday and saying Yizkor and it was a difficult and meaningful conversation. I told her about how much I regret not having spent more time with Eitan and wished that he would have spent more Shabbat dinner's with us at Hillel. After our phone call, I prepared for services and dinner.
On most Shabbat's we have a couple of the AEPI brothers join us. But on this particular Shabbat to our suprise, the entire AEPI pledge class came to our services and Shabbat dinner. They later told me that they had a requirement to have one meal with all of them together, and the Shabbat dinner at Hillel worked out best.
I am usually a Jewish rationalist, but on this night I was more like a Mystic, as I felt a sense of warmth from the group and the memory of Eitan so strongly present with all of us. We talked about him and they told me about how they were memoralizing him. I really felt inspired by that experience and felt his presence even stronger throughout the Shabbat and into Havdalah. In a strange way, I felt like Eitan had wanted to have spent more Shabbats with us here at Hillel. His presence and his spirit remain strongly part of our lives.