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Ortho Group Worked on Hudson Crash Scene

Misaskim shows up whenever Jewish bodies are involved

Ari M. Brostoff
August 11, 2009
The helicopter’s wreckage in Hoboken yesterday.(Rick Gershon/Getty Images)
The helicopter’s wreckage in Hoboken yesterday.(Rick Gershon/Getty Images)

The National Transportation Safety Board requested the services of Misaskim, an ultra-Orthodox organization that tries to ensure that Jewish victims of disasters and violent crimes are buried in accordance with religious law, after the air crash over the Hudson River last weekend, which killed five people on a tourist helicopter and three on a private plane, according to Yeshiva World News. Rabbi Jack Meyer, a Misaskim director, confirms his group was there, but says things happened a bit differently—the accident occurred on Shabbat, so Misaskim didn’t arrive right away, and it was through “the Jewish grapevine,” not through the NTSB, that they found out the Philadelphia family on board the plane was Jewish. But the government agency is regularly in touch with Misaskim after an incident if agents believe there are Jewish victims, said Meyer and Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB. “The last time we really dealt side by side was the train crash in Washington,” Meyer said, though it turned out in that case that none of the dead were Jewish. But when there are, he said, “we make sure that it gets buried as quickly as possible and [with] the least desecration of a body.” A similar organization in Israel specializes in collecting body parts and blood after terrorist attacks. And what if the victims are secular Jews who wouldn’t necessarily have wanted their remains handled by an Orthodox organization? “Doesn’t matter—Reform, Orthodox, Conservative—as long as you’re a Jew,” Meyer said.

Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.