Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation
Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation

From Loved Ones & Friends

Letter from Scott Bellows to Rabbi Marx

Dear Rabbi Marx:

I’m one of the people who searched for Katie Svitek at Mt. Bachelor, Oregon last weekend, as a member of Portland Mountain Rescue. Katie’s situation has weighed heavily on my mind, for several reasons: the search for her was my first live (not practice) operation with PMR, which I joined only recently; I’m the father of two daughters, one of whom loves the mountains and (I hope) will grow up to be a lot like I’ve heard Katie is; I’m an elder at our church (First Presbyterian of Portland), and like Katie’s family look to my faith to try and make sense out of the senseless, or at least to console me when no sense can be made. I carpooled to the Mountain Saturday with a fellow named Robert (didn’t catch his last name), who said he knows the Sviteks and knew their rabbi from college (you?), and had a short, moving talk with a friend of the family who came out to thank us on Saturday (which meant a lot to me).

I’m writing for two reasons, I suppose. One is to reaffirm that there literally are hundreds, if not thousands, of people – strangers but nevertheless neighbors – thinking of Katie and her family, praying and wishing them well. That fact mainly says good things about Katie. Every Mt. Bachelor employee I encountered, even those simply running the chair lifts, said "thank you" to us in a very moving way, even a week after the search started. The number of rescue units and searchers in this case is unprecedented: it is rare to have more than one or two teams on a search, let alone a dozen from several states. It seems everyone who knew her, like her coworkers on the mountain and the members of the Mt. Bachelor ski patrol, went to extraordinary lengths to help, and their enthusiasm and commitment spread to the rest of us. Katie must be a very special person to have touched so many people so deeply.

The second reason I’m writing is that yesterday, for no good reason, I did an Internet search for Katie’s name. Only one site came up: the section of www.bethor.org that talks about your Czech Torah. It read:

"Were you with us on Mount Scopus in 1993 when Rabbi Marx celebrated the arrival of our little Torah in Jerusalem? We were told we carried it there on behalf of those to whom it once belonged, who were denied the opportunity to travel to Jerusalem. If you were there, you also were with us when it was read on top of Masada during the B’not Mitzvah of Ashley Tecklin, Katie Svitek, and Chrissy Miller. Hard to remember them at age 13, but we all remember the moment."

Many of the prophets had "mountaintop" experiences, and it seems Katie did too, encountering God on top of Masada. I can’t help but wonder whether that experience stayed with her, and drove her love of the outdoors; I do know that God feels closer, easier to touch, when I’m high on a mountain in the Cascades, and I’ll bet that was the case with Katie as well. Is it possible to draw a line from Masada to Mt. Bachelor, from a momentary experience of God to (what I both fear and hope) is an infinite one? In any case, I hope the little Torah that survived senselessness will help Katie’s family do the same, somehow.

Anyway, please convey our family’s love to Katie’s family. We’ll keep doing all we can out here, in addition to keeping Katie and all those who love her in our prayers.


Scott, Carol, Elizabeth and Amelia Bellows


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