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New York State Law to Create Funds to Repair Cemetery Vandalism Seen As a Start to More Comprehensiv

An official of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York said today that a new state law making it possible for non-profit cemeteries, which includes most Jewish cemeteries, to create funds to repair cemetery vandalism was “a start” toward a more comprehensive law.

David Pollock, JCRC assistant executive director, said the JCRC had sought a law to make it mandatory for all non-profit cemeteries in the state to create such a fund. Under the new law, which became effective on September 1, the decision on establishing such a fund is at the option of the cemetery board of trustees. Once that decision is made, all bereaved families would have to pay an additional small burial fee into the fund, Pollock said.

Pollock told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the new law was the first of its kind in the United States. He added that the JCRC would continue to press for stronger legislation, noting that approval of the law indicated that the legislature was aware of the problem.

Responsibility for repair of damaged or destroyed monuments is at present that of the owner of the individual plot and will continue to be until cemeteries begin to create the special trust funds.

The law was introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Howard Lasher, Brooklyn Democrat, and in the Senate by Senators Martin Solomon (D. Brooklyn) and Jess Present (R. Jamestown.)

Jack Schekira, assistant director of the Division of Cemeteries of the New York Department of State, told the JTA that no applications had been received to date from qualified cemetery owners because the division must draw up rules for the application of the new law.

RESPONSIBILITY OF CEMETERY OWNERS

Cemetery owners must submit detailed plans for the proposed fund for approval by the division. Under the new law, participating cemetery boards must file annual reports,and the division will check operation of the funds every three years.

Lasher said, in introducing the measure in the Assembly, that while some cemetery boards do help to pay for such repairs, they must use money coming from their general funds,which are intended for general upkeep and operation of the cemetery.

Describing such vandalism as “a devastating act of violence,” Lasher said that “in addition to the emotional trauma, the financial burden currently falls on the deceased’s relatives.”

Each fund will be financed by a charge paid at the time of internment, or a rate set by the cemetery and approved by the State Cemetery Board. The funds will be invested subject to the estates, powers and trust law, Lasher said.

Should vandalism occur, the cemetery must notify the owner of the plot within 30 days of discovery of the damage. If a special fund has been established, the cemetery will restore the monument with money from the fund.

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