NEW YORK (Jun. 28)
As the cemetery strike against the metropolitan area’s 47 cemeteries continues, despite Gov. Rockefeller’s signature on a bill mandating arbitration, volunteer grave diggers are meeting with harassment and violence on the part of frustrated grave diggers.
Isaac Salmon, a 25-year-old Brooklyn volunteer, was assaulted and severely beaten yesterday by a striking grave digger, Willy Taylor, at Mount Hebron Cemetery and was taken to the hospital. Rabbi Shlomo Drimmer, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Jewish Burial, stated that despite numerous requests to the police department asking for protection for volunteers, In many instances policemen refuse to enter the cemeteries and stand at the gates.
Drimmer indicated that despite the fact that cemetery owners Joined him in asking that police officers be stationed at the grave sites, the police department is still uncertain of the legality of such a move.
Rabbi Samuel Schrage, chairman of the Committee, said he felt that violence was on the upsurge because of the grave diggers’ frustration over their inability to gain an acceptable construct. “When men are hungry and the pay check is not there they get angry,” the rabbi said. Meanwhile, many volunteers are backing off for fear of physical violence.
The Committee sent a telegram to Police Commissioner Donald S. Cawley requesting that a special task-force be assigned to protect the lives of the volunteer grave diggers.
Rabbi Drimmer said that five volunteers at Mount Carmel Cemetery were yesterday pushed by a menacing group of 50 grave diggers into a local office where they were being held as virtual prisoners. Rabi Schrage indicated that he was still hopeful that the union would understand that the ECJB are not their enemies and their only goal is to provide Jews with the traditional burial within the 24-hour period as required by Jewish law.
So far the volunteers have buried 856 Jews. As of today 2500 bodies remain unburied. Last week it was reported by the Committee that there were 3000 bodies of Jews remaining unburied be-cause of the strike.