Last week, a woman contacted Misaskim with a request for assistance in bringing her sister to kever yisroel. The nifteres had passed away in Richmond, Virginia, while living there with her roommate. By the time the woman learned of her sister’s passing, the body had already been taken to the Cremation Society of Virginia.
Understandably, this individual was greatly distressed by the circumstances as she knew that her sister had desired a Jewish burial. In addition, a Chabad Rabbi in Richmond, who had interacted with the nifteres before her passing, also confirmed this to be true.
Misaskim representatives, together with Rabbi Vorst of Crown Heights and a Chabad shaliach in Virginia, immediately began working on the case. They contacted the Cremation Society in an effort to have the body released for burial.
However, shortly after Misaskim volunteers from Baltimore were dispatched to retrieve the body, the organization received a phone call from the Cremation Society indicating that the volunteers should not undertake the journey to Richmond. The clerk explained that the nifteres’ roommate, who was the designated legal guardian, had requested that the body be cremated. The crematorium assured Misaskim that they had already obtained the necessary legal documents and would therefore proceed with the cremation.
Upon hearing this, Misaskim’s representatives requested that the documents be forwarded to them. Initially, upon examination of the documents, it seemed as if it would be almost impossible to prevent the cremation because the designation agreement explicitly stated that it “supersedes any authority or rights which any other person may claim….”
However, after carefully examining the document, Misaskim uncovered several questionable items in the designation agreement. Both the crematorium and the roommate were promptly notified. Misaskim also explained the grave necessity of conducting the entire funeral procedure according to Jewish tradition and declared that it would take all necessary legal action to resolve the situation.
After 48-hours of non-stop negotiations, the roommate released the body to Misaskim, and volunteers from Brooklyn and from Baltimore were dispatched to retrieve the nifteres. The Virginia Cremation Society extended special courtesies to Misaskim and arranged for a staff member to be on call after hours. In this way, Misaskim volunteers were able to pick up the body and transport it back to Brooklyn as quickly as possible for an expedited burial.
Misaskim thanked the Hebrew Free Burial Society for donating a plot and arranging for the funeral. Hebrew Free Burial Society also arranged for a rav to officiate at the funeral and for a minyan to be present. In addition, Rabbi Vorst assembled a minyan of Chabad Yeshiva students, and Yereim Chapel graciously offered its services at no charge. Misaskim also made special mention of the volunteers who dedicated 16 hours of travel time in order to transport the body.