It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rabbi Eliyahu (Eli) Hakohen Munk zt”l, longtime venerated director of Camp Munk, at the age of 77.
Rabbi Munk was a son of Rabbi Yechiel Aryeh and Mrs. Martha Munk. Reb Yechiel Aryeh zt”l was a son of Rav Ezriel Munk zt”l, the rov of Berlin.
Reb Yechiel Aryeh, who learned in Slabodka, was close to all the Slabodka talmidim, including Rav Hutner, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Rav Avrohom Kalmanowitz, Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman and Rav Aharon Kotler, and all these roshei yeshiva had such confidence in him that they sent their best boys to Camp Munk, which he founded.
Reb Yechiel Aryeh earned a doctorate from the University of Wurtzburg and became assistant rabbi to his father. In 1938, Rav Munk traveled to Yerushalayim with his wife to attend a family bris, and both were saved by the Nazis’ refusal to allow them re-entry into Berlin.
His father, Rav Yechiel Aryeh Munk zt”l, with Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l.
After a short time as a rov in a London shul, Reb Yechiel Aryeh emigrated to America with his mishpacha and became a rov and principal in Boston. Later, a group of Brooklyn parents founded a Bais Yaakov in Boro Park and Reb Yechiel Aryeh moved to Brooklyn and filled the position.
In 1949, Mrs. Munk, in need of money, took seven boys, some of whom were their boarders at a farm in Fonda, New York. While Mrs. Munk took care of the boys’ material needs, Rabbi Munk filled the atmosphere with ruchniyus. In that small group of seven were Rav Gavriel Finkel, now a senior posek in Lakewood, NJ, and Rav Meir Stern, now rosh yeshiva of Yeshivah Gedolah of Passaic, NJ. Rav Stern’s sister, Raye, would later marry his friend, Reb Eli Munk.
As related by Suri Cohen in an article written for Inyan earlier this year, when they were finally looking to buy a campus, the Munks went to look at the Queen Mountain Country Club in Ferndale, New York. They were taken by the beauty of the grounds and the breathtaking mountains in the background. And then, in front of one of the buildings, they saw something eerily inexplicable – a flagpole set in a cement base on which was carved the word ‘MONK.’ It seemed like a heavenly omen. They purchased the property in 1955.
Following his father, Reb Eli continued his father’s work, imbuing the next generation with hashkofas haTorah. Reb Eli knew how to be mechanech youngsters, and would deliberately ignore tumults and other goings-on, with an original and brilliant approach to educating his campers.
Former campers still have a feeling of respect for different traditions that was instilled by Reb Eli. He really believed in bechol derachecha da’ehu, and that gave his young charges such a warm feeling for Yiddishkeit.
“It is thanks to Rabbi Munk that all of us former Camp Munk campers still feel we are part of a family,” a former camper told Matzav.com. “Rabbi Munk was a role model in Torah, avodah, gemillus chassodim, anivus and chinuch al pi derech Yisroel saba. He would speak about his legendary father, and we were always inspired by the reverence with which he spoke about his lineage and his father’s great accomplishments. We saw the great respect he showed to the mara d’asra of camp, Rav Dovid Cohen, and all the great rabbeim of the camp. The way he dealt with counselors and campers alike taught timeless lessons.”
Rabbi Munk’s passing leaves a void in the hearts of generations of campers and thousands of others who were touched and inspired by him.
Rabbi Munk is survived by his wife, Mrs. Raye Munk, nee Stern; his siblings, including Mrs Chanie Mandelbaum and Rav Yechezkel Munk of Telshe Yeshiva-Cleveland; four children, Mrs. Naomi Finkel, Mrs. Leah Lehrfeld, R’ Pinchus (Pinny) Munk, R’ Ezriel (Ezzy) Munk; as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The levaya will take place today, Hoshanah Rabbah, at 1 p.m. at Shomrei Hadas Chapels, located at 14th Avenue and 39th Street in Boro Park, Brooklyn.
Yehi zichro boruch.