Falling Tree Kills Counselor From New York at Jewish Summer Camp

Annais Rittenberg Dies in Freak Accident at Camp Tawonga

Deadly Day: Annais Rittenberg, a camp couselor from New York, died when a tree fell through a dining hall at a summer camp in northern California.
facebook
Deadly Day: Annais Rittenberg, a camp couselor from New York, died when a tree fell through a dining hall at a summer camp in northern California.

By Anne Cohen

Published July 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

A Jewish summer camp counselor from New York was killed and several others injured when a 70-foot tall black oak tree fell outside a dining hall at the camp near Yosemite National Park in northern California.

Annais Rittenberg, 21, a “beloved member of the Camp Tawonga staff,” was killed and four others injured when the massive tree toppled on the camp grounds, Camp Tawonga officials said in a letter to parents.

“I’ve lost a beautiful child through that tree,” Rittenberg’s mother, Penny Kreitzer, told the Los Angeles Times. “I wish the tree had fallen on Saturday when no one was there.”

Annais Rittenberg
Annais Rittenberg

Rittenberg attended the University of California at Santa Cruz where she was to be a senior this year, according to the campus spokesperson, NBC reported.

On her Facebook page, Rittenberg listed that she was originally from New York and had attended the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

She was returning for her second straight summer as an arts counselor at Camp Tawonga, which combined her loves for photography and nature.

“This was a child who was so vibrant,” Kreitzer told the Times. “I can’t even tell you.”

A Cal Fire spokesman, Daniel Berlant, posted on Twitter that emergency crews were responding to a “mass casualty” event on Wednesday at Camp Tawonga, with 20 reported injuries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Authorities said there was little anyone could have done to prevent the tragedy.

“There was nothing to indicate there was anything wrong with this tree,” Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Oliver told the San Jose Mercury-News. “Even to look at the existing tree trunk, there is still nothing wrong. Basically, it was a freak accident, as (far as) we can tell.”

Gregg Rubenstein, director of finance for the camp, told The Associated Press that the staff was still assessing the situation but no campers were among the injured.

That point was underscored in the email to parents with the subject in all capital letters: “EVERY CHILD AT CAMP IS FINE,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The camp houses up to 300 children and 160 staff members, though it’s unclear how many were on the 160-acre grounds.

Campers were inside the dining hall when the tree fell, Jennifer Rosenberg, whose daughter is an employee at the camp, told the Times.

Before the Tragedy: Campers hold a dance party at Camp Tawonga in the hours before the freak accident that killed a counselor.
courtesy of camp tawonga
Before the Tragedy: Campers hold a dance party at Camp Tawonga in the hours before the freak accident that killed a counselor.

“She said it sounded like an earthquake, and then a big dust cloud,” Rosenberg said.

A press release posted to Facebook and emailed to parents identified the victim as Rittenberg.

Four other adult staffers — Lizzie Moore, Cara Sheedy, Juliet Ulibarri, and Anya Schultz — have been rushed to the hospital, and their families notified.

In the minutes following the incident, parents flocked to the camp’s Facebook page to post frantic requests for updates, angry that no email had yet been sent out.

“Please tell my daughter […] to call home so I know she is okay,” one mother wrote.

“So worried about my child and everyone up at camp,” another parent posted. “Please give us an update.”

The camp’s press released confirmed that no campers had been injured, and that counseling services would be provided.

“The campers are doing well and are participating in camp activities away from the scene,” the statement read. “Our on-site staff therapists are working closely with First Responder grief experts to help care for our community in this difficult time.”

Founded in 1925, Camp Tawonga is located near Yosemite National Park and headquartered in San Francisco. Set in the spectacular High Sierras, it is known as one of the oldest and best-established Jewish camps in California.

At Santa Cruz, Rittenberg was involved in the student-run radio station KZSC.

An adventurous type who had traveled widely, she earned a following for her love of world music, Michael Bryant, KZSC’s director, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“She had a passion for a wide variety of music,” Bryant told the paper. “She had an ability to share that with other students. She was able to enlighten a lot of her peers.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.