Orthodox and Reform Rabbis Seek End of Strike of Cemetery Workers

A group of Reform rabbis and two Orthodox organizations sought today to obtain action to end a 14-day strike of cemetery workers which has forced observant Jews to bury their dead themselves.

The Association of Reform Rabbis of New York, representing 250 rabbis, offered to mediate the strike by the Cemetery Workers and Green Attendants of Local 365 of the AFL-CIO Building Service Employes Union against 36 Catholic, Jewish and non-sectarian cemeteries. The Reform rabbis group deplored the inability of families to carry out “the sacred duty of burying their dead.”

The two Orthodox groups were the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, headed by President Joseph Karasik, and the Rabbinical Council of America, headed by Rabbi Pesach Z. Levovitz. The two Orthodox leaders called on Gov. Nelson Rockefeller an Mayor John Lindsay to take immediate steps to make possible the burial of the dead, without regard to the strike.

The two Orthodox leaders said that if the strike was not settled promptly, “we shall take steps to form an emergency corps of volunteers to inter the departed.” They said a large number of offers had been received from students of rabbinical seminaries and other young people volunteering their services for that purpose.

“The failure to bury the dead and the accumulation of bodies has reached emergency proportions and immediate steps must be taken to resolve this emergency,” the Orthodox leaders declared. “The strike must under no circumstances prevent the citizens of New York from abiding by the dictates of their consciences and from fulfilling the precepts of their faith.” They also said that failure to inter the dead was “a direct violation” of Jewish religious principles “and is rapidly creating havoc among the many families involved.”

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