Liberty, NY – This past Sunday morning, Tisha B’av, Chesed shel Emes organized and led a very emotional and moving ceremony of Hakamas Matzeivos, which took place in their newly acquired cemetery in Liberty, N.Y.
Chesed Shel Emes is an exemplary organzation whose goal is to ensure that every Meis Mitzvah is buried in a Jewish cemetery with the maximum Kavod Hameis. Monuments were placed on the graves of several meisei mitzvah, Yiddishe neshamos, who died without leaving any close relatives.
Sunday morning in the mountains started out with unusually heavy rain. It seemed as though the Hakamas Matzeivos would not be able to take place as planned. However, the skies soon cleared and it became apparent that the Ratzon Hashem was indeed that Kavod be given to these meisei mitzvah.
At the appointed hour, a huge crowd gathered in the Chesed Shel Emes cemetery in Liberty, including many friends and admirers of Rabbi Mendel Rosenberg, founder of Chesed Shel Emes, as well as many financial supporters of this very worthy cause. Several neighboring camps also brought groups of bochurim, feeling that this was an appropriate way to spend part of their day on Tisha B’Av.
Many prominent Rabbonim were also seen, among them the Kosover Rebbe shlita, Harav Aron Yeshaye Rosner shlita, Somboteler Rav, Harav Shalom Noach Landau shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Veretzky, and Harav Shia Nachman Berger shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ohel Torah, among many others.
Among the huge crowd of participants, many were seen standing with tears in their eyes as they looked at the graves of these lonely people who had been sadly abandoned during their lifetimes, and only through amazing stories of hashgacha pratis had been saved from being abandoned after their demise as well.
The monuments arrived at the agreed upon time, each one with a most suitable and fitting inscription, according to the research done on each niftar by Chesed shel Emes.
Rabbi Rosenberg addressed the assembled crowd and then approached each grave and proceeded to talk about the niftar, many of whom were choshuva Yidden who suffered much during their lives. Rabbi Rosenberg also told each niftar’s story of hashgacha pratis which brought them to Chesed shel Emes, and subsequently to Kever Yisrael.
A moving tefilas “Keil Moleh Rachamim” was recited for each niftar by Cantor Rabbi Yisrael Yosef Guttman, which caused tremendous hisorerus among the participants.
The Kosover Rebbe shlita then addressed the massive gathering, speaking about Tisha B’Av, Churban Beis Hamikdash and our long and bitter galus with its many symptoms, among which is the phenomenon of so many elderly, lonely people, who unfortunately die as meisei mitzvah. The Rebbe concluded his moving words with a tefillah that we may all soon merit to witness the ultimate Redemption and Techiyas Hameisim.
Rabbi Mendel Rosenberg shlita, who is currently observing the sheloshim for his choshuva mother a”h, then recited a very emotional and moving Kaddish, as many of the onlookers mourned the niftarim, many of them Holocaust survivors, who weren’t zocheh to leave any offspring who would recite the holy words of Kaddish for them.
The Many Activities of Chesed Shel Emes
The organization Chesed Shel Emes, under the leadership of Rabbi Mendel Rosenberg shlita, assures a Jewish burial for every Meis Mitzvah from all over the United States, with utmost attention to Kavod Hameis.
Chesed shel Emes will often deal with police and the medical examiner in a most professional and efficient manner to obtain the release of a niftar. At such a time Chesed shel Emes utilizes all of their contacts and resources to avoid autopsies or any other form of bizayon hameis.
The cemetery in Liberty is actually the fifth cemetery purchased by Chesed shel Emes. There are also several large cemeteries where parts are designated for Chesed shel Emes burials.
During the past year alone, Chesed Shel Emes has brought fourteen meisei mitzvah to Kever Yisrael only in the Liberty cemetery.
All of these were people who had no relatives whatsoever. In cases where there are surviving relatives, even if the relationship was distant or if the relatives are non-observant, an effort is made to have these relatives take care of the burial, with Chesed shel Emes overseeing the process and helping out financially or otherwise, where necessary.
Often working with family members turns out to be more difficult than when the niftar has the status of a meis mitzvah.
Daily Hashgacha Pratis in the workings of Chesed shel Emes
Some of the stories involving meisei mitzvah, and the Hashgacha pratis involved in bringing the to kever yisrael are amazing and almost unbelievable. The following two accounts are of the first and most recent burials which took place in Liberty, N.Y.
The first was R’ Yosef ben Moshe Ferenzu A”H, an 80 year old yid who had no relatives. He was found dead in his apartment in the Eastside in Manhattan after neighbors alerted the police, suspecting that he may have died. He was presumably niftar over a week before he was found there.
On the same floor in the building lived a non-observant Jew, who remembered reading about chesed shel emes in an article in a secular newspaper about the professor who had been shot in Virginia Tech University. The newspaper mentioned that chesed shel emes was an organization which assured a halachic burial for every Jew, regardless of his background. This neighbor called the newspaper headquarters, contacted the reporter of the abovementioned article, and asked for the phone number of chesed shel emes.
When Rabbi Rosenberg was called, he immediately contacted the medical examiner in Manhattan and requested firmly that no bizayon hameis is to take place. He then contacted the management of the apartment building where the niftar lived and asked for additional information to verify that there were indeed no living relatives.
After that the public administrator was called, however, he said that the person responsible for these affairs in on vacation and will return in a week. Rabbi Rosenberg did not accept this answer and started telling the P.A. about the concept of bizayon hameis. As he was talking, hashgacha pratis led a judge into the P.A.’s office. The judge took over the phone call and told Rabbi Rosenberg to have someone at his office at 4:00 with all the necessary papers and everything will be dealt with in a satisfactory manner.
At 4:00 R’ Yaakov Berger, a chesed shel emes volunteer entered the P.A.’s office with all the papers where everything was efficiently resolved. The next morning, Wednesday Parshas Shoftim the tahara took place at the Shomrei Hadas chapel, and the first burial took place in the Chesed shel emes cemetery in Liberty in the presence of more than a minyan. Keil moleh rachamim and Kaddish were recited for the niftar.
The following is a more recent episode. Chesed Shel Emes communicated regularly with employees in large old age homes, so they can be notifies in a timely manner about the death of elderly Jews without relatives who can oversee a halachic burial for them.
A while ago, an employee of a home called chesed shel emes and told them about an elderly fully observant Jewish woman, who had no children or relatives, who had been transferred to a hospital about a year ago. She hasn’t returned to the home and he thought chesed shel emes should do some follow up research and find out if the woman was still alive, and if not to arrange for a Jewish burial.
Chesed shel Emes called the hospital who verified that the woman had indeed passed away about a year ago and was handed over to the medical examiner’s office. Rabbi Rosenberg immediately contacted the medical examiner who confirmed that the woman had unfortunately been buried in a non-Jewish cemetery, used by the state for such purposes.
Rabbi Rosenberg shuddered at the thought of a Jewish woman being buried in a non-Jewish cemetery. Volunteers were immediately dispatched the appointed location and proceeded in full accordance with halacha to dig up the aron, which would then be reinterred in a cemetery of Chesed shel emes. The volunteers were shocked to discover that although the woman had been buried for almost a year, her body had not decomposed, a tremendous zechus which she had obviously merited.
A proper tahara was performed, after which a minyan chesed shel emes volunteers proceeded the cemetery in Liberty where the very emotional funeral took place. This niftar, who had suffered so much during her lifetime, and was buried among goyim, had the unusual zechus to be brought to kever yisrael.
The above are only two of the many such stories to which chesed shel emes members are privy to on an almost daily basis. Chesed shel Emes members are hard at work at all hours of the day and night to assure that every niftar receives a halachic burial.