NEW YORK (Jan. 21)
Although last week’s court order, stating that all Jews have the right to be buried within 24 hours after death, is being obeyed, the spirit of the law is being violated, according to Hyman Dechter, counsel for the Emergency Committee for Jewish Burial. New York Supreme Court Justice Harold Baer had issued the decision in response to the Committee’s suit against striking gravediggers here. Mr. Dechter said that because of cold weather, air-hammers were needed to break the icy ground for burial. In most cases, he continued, the cemeteries were not providing people with the expensive pieces of equipment. He contended that if the situation becomes serious enough so that bodies cannot be buried within 24 hours, as required by Orthodox law, his group may have to take legal action.
Rabbi Samuel Schrage, chairman of the committee, told the JTA that burials now take up to 12 hours because of the lack of necessary equipment, and that volunteers and family members are out working “almost around the clock” to make sure that religious requirements are met. The committee, which aids families concerned with burial problems, has suggested to some families that they bury their dead in Israel, “where it is presently easier to get buried than in New York City.” and to others that they go to non-union cemeteries in the Metropolitan area. The Rabbi claims that so far all of the Orthodox dead are being buried within the 24 hour limitation despite the “hardship” conditions.
Mr. Dechter claimed that the attorney for the cemetery owners has indicated that there would be absolutely no cooperation forthcoming as regards the use of air-hammers, because of possible injury to the people that would operate them. The strike of 1700 gravediggers throughout the New York area began on Jan. 12. Yesterday, thirteen of the men, members of Local 365 of the Cemetery Workers and Green Attendants, were arrested as they tried to prevent hearses from entering a Roman Catholic cemetery here.