Israeli news site B’Chadrei Chareidim reported that Carlos Ginsberg had been buried in a non-Jewish cemetery in Brazil seven years ago. Under Brazilian law, a body can be exhumed after seven years with the remains moved to a different location, freeing up the grave for another body.
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Riani, head of B’Noam which deals with issues of this nature, said that Ginsberg’s son, who lives in Israel, received a call from his uncle who was devastated to discover that his brother was no longer in his final resting place.
“When Carlos Ginsberg died, his brother did not have money to pay the chevra kadisha to bury him in the Jewish cemetery so he decided to bury him elsewhere,” said Rabbi Riani. “He was not familiar with the Brazilian law that allows them to dig up the body after seven years.”
The discovery was made two weeks ago, with Ginsberg’s remains discovered in a plastic bag in storage area, labeled with his name. Rabbi Riani said that the practice is common in Brazil, France and other countries, with the remains typically burned after being exhumed.
Contacting the Jewish community in Sao Paolo, Rabbi Riani learned that Jewish burial is extremely costly in Brazil. Ginsberg, who had emigrated from Israel to Brazil, had difficulty making ends meet and none of his family members, all of whom are traditional Jews, had the funds to pay for a halachic burial.
Efforts by the family to have Ginsberg’s remains transported to Israel were unsuccessful because the death had taken place too long ago, despite intervention by David Azoulay, minister of religious affairs. It was one of Ginsberg’s two sons in Israel who reached out to Rabbi Riani for assistance.
“We got in touch with a person who is heavily involved with chesed in Brazil, Elio Moti Sonnenfeld, and with his help, after a week of intense work, we were able to convince the chevra kadisha to bury the niftar in the Jewish cemetery,” said Rabbi Riani.
Ginsberg, who had previously been buried near a large cross, was finally given a proper Jewish burial. Several dozen people turned out for the funeral last Friday just hours before the onset of Shabbos.
Rabbi Riani noted that his situation is likely not unique, with tens of Brazilians Jews buried in non-Jewish cemeteries because they don’t have the funds to pay for a halachic Jewish burial.