Yonkers cemetery moved to Israel #general


Renee Steinig <rsteinig@...>
 

A number of articles have appeared in recent weeks in New York and Jewish
newspapers about a former Jewish cemetery in Yonkers, N.Y. -- just west of
the New York State Thruway (Route 87) and about three miles north of the
Cross County Expressway. The half-acre cemetery of the now defunct
Congregation People of Righteousness has been the subject of a year-long
investigation by N.Y. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, begun after a
Lake Placid, N.Y., woman complained about the disappearance of the cemetery
where her grandparents were buried.

Investigators learned that the cemetery was moved 15 years ago to make way
for the parking garage for two new superstores. Under the terms of a
court-approved 1989 agreement, drawn up with the approval of rabbinical
authorities, all remains were to be relocated at the developer's expense, in
accordance with Orthodox Jewish law and under the supervision of a Jewish
funeral director - either to Eretz Hachaim Cemetery in Jerusalem or, at the
request of families, to cemeteries in the United States. Although an old map
of the cemetery shows at least 241 burials, Spitzer's office found evidence
that 77 graves (65 adults and 12 children) were moved to Jerusalem and that
no more than 20 were relocated within the U.S. Removal permits were obtained
for the 20 U.S. reburials but not for the graves moved to Israel. The
Attorney General's court brief raises questions in particular about the fate
of about 135 children's graves that cannot be accounted for and may never
have been moved. The brief calls for an appropriate memorial to those once
buried in the Yonkers cemetery and a contribution by the responsible parties
to rehabilitate and maintain other abandoned Jewish cemeteries in New York.

According to newspaper reports, People of Righteousness, an Orthodox
synagogue, was founded in 1898 and bought its cemetery grounds in 1899. The
synagogue, which was located adjacent to the cemetery, was demolished in
1969. By 1989, the cemetery, overseen by five surviving synagogue members,
was "in shameful condition" -- "thoroughly overgrown with vegetation" and
"in serious disrepair."

Renee

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