Brooklyn, NY – After a disappearance of almost thirteen years, a well known fixture in Williamsburg has finally been located in a grave at the largest potter’s field in the United States, thanks to advanced fingerprinting technology.
Yisroel Meir Beck was forty two years old and a Brooklyn resident at the time of his disappearance. The man, who was known to frequent batei medrashim and weddings in Williamsburg, was last seen on the morning of February 25th, 2000 on Bedford Avenue. While the Beck family has been searching extensively for the missing man since his disappearance, his whereabouts became known only recently.
“I got a phone call from Sergeant Hill at the NYPD on January 14th who told me that new fingerprints from many years ago had just been entered into his database, identifying my brother as an unknown missing person who had been fingerprinted at the morgue in an attempt to establish his identity,” Rivka Fulda, Beck’s sister, told VIN News. “I was told they were using new technology that scans fingerprints from all different places and that fingerprints of my brother’s that were on file matched those newly entered fingerprints that had been taken at the medical examiner’s office many years ago.”
Mrs. Fulda was told by detectives that the medical examiner’s report stated that an unknown person walked into a New York City hospital and died in the emergency room on February 29, 2000, four days after her brother was last seen.
“He had no identification of any sort on him,” explained Mrs. Fulda. “His body was sent to the medical examiner’s office and when no one claimed the body he was sent to Hart Island.”
All unidentified bodies in New York City are sent to Hart Island, the largest tax funded cemetery in the world, for interment after being photographed at the morgue. Located east of City Island in the Long Island Sound, burials at the 101 acre cemetery are conducted by Rikers Island inmates.
“To me, finding a fingerprint match was an indication that this could be it, but I needed more,” said Mrs. Fulda. “I got a medical report a week or so ago that was very pareve. It gave height, weight and pathology and also mentioned that the body in question had been circumcised. That was important but still not conclusive.”
Final confirmation finally came in the form of a morgue photograph, which Mrs. Fulda received in the mail last Thursday.
“I open this envelope and there is the picture of the person who had passed away. It was definitely him,” reported Mrs. Fulda. “The next morning, I contacted some of the people he had been in touch with in Williamsburg, because I had no idea how to go about taking care of things. Chesed Shel Emes called me immediately. They are an amazing institution.”
Chesed Shel Emes has confirmed that they are in the process of initiating the process of disinterment in order to give Beck a proper kevura, a procedure which will take extra time given the extended holiday weekend.
“We need to get a death certificate and the proper permits,” said Mendy Rosenberg of Chesed Shel Emes. “We have already been in touch with the Corrections Department at Rikers Island which takes care of the potter’s field. As soon as we have the proper paperwork in place we can go ahead and give him the burial he deserves.”
“I am very pleased that we at Chessed Shel Emes were able to be a part of this great deed and help bring closure for the family and give him a proper jewish burial,” added community activist and Chesed Shel Emes member Zvi Gluck.
Mrs. Fulda told VIN News that while she continued to hope that her brother would be found safely, after such a prolonged absence with no contact she was concerned that something had happened to him.
“We called the police, checked with hospital, posted signs everywhere, both in Brooklyn and in the Catskills,” recalled Mrs. Fulda. “We ran an extensive search and my father contacted mekubalim in Eretz Yisroel. Although it did not look hopeful, we never gave up and I was always mispallel that we should be able to bring him to kever yisroel.”
Mrs. Fulda hopes to bury her brother, Yisroel Meir ben R’ Yitzchok Eizik somewhere near Williamsburg.
“I would like for him to be in a place where he is accessible to the people he was close with. He was very well known in Williamsburg and I would like for people to be able to go there and daven for him,” said Mrs. Fulda.