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Death Penalty

Crises face the newly departed

Hadara Graubart
August 03, 2009

The latest casualties of Jews’ oft-bemoaned failure to transmit the importance of “looking after our own” from one generation to the next: the dead. Once, according to The New York Times, American Jews, particularly in the Northeast, organized societies to oversee the care and burial of the deceased. Now the dissolution of many such groups—due, in most cases, to aging members—has led to such near-disasters as what befell Florence Marmor, who found that her Queens, New York, plot, alongside her late husband’s, had been sold out from under her (pardon the pun), by a now-deceased administrator. The responsibility for maintaining records and righting wrongs often falls to obscure government agencies, such as the Office of Miscellaneous Estates in New York. Will this problem inspire more Jews to take up the cause of ensuring the eternal security of the people, or to be glad they haven’t put their future remains in the hands of groups that may not pass the test of time?

In other crisis-of-the-dead news, Israel is running out of space for the dearly departed, leading officials to consider “high-density burials” in which bodies are “laid to rest on top of each other in underground crypts.” Perhaps they got the idea from Mrs. Marmor.

Hadara Graubart was formerly a writer and editor for Tablet Magazine.