Philadelphian, Though Admitted to Forefathers’ Faith, Is Buried in Christian Cemetery (Jewish Telegraphic Agency)
All his life Harry Hirschfeld, aged Philadelphian, thought of the day of his death when, because of a dramatic entanglement, he, who lived as a Jew, would have to be buried with Christian rites in a Christian cemetery. He travelled six thousand miles to the capital of Poland in order to secure legal admission to the Jewish faith so that he might be accorded Jewish burial. Today, when he died, at the age of 77, though practically admitted to the faith of his forefathers, he was buried in a Christian cemetery.
On October 18, when he left the Warsaw Rabbinate building, with assurance that he would be admitted into the fold of Judaism, Hirschfeld declared: “Today is the happiest day of my life, Now I am assured that when I die Jewish burial in consecrated ground will be accorded me.”
Having secured the ruling of the Warsaw Rabbinate for his admission to Judaism, the aged American delayed his departure for the United States, awaiting an official government certificate. Before the wheels of officialdom turned out the recognition of his conversion, Hirschfeld, a guest at the home of his brother, a member of the Catholic church, took sick and died. He was buried today in the Catholic cemetery.
Born in the Christian faith, which his father embraced to marry the daughter of a Polish landowner, Harry Hischfeld was reared as a Christian up until his seventeenth year. When he was 17, he went to the United States, sixty years ago, leaving behind his father who lived in Warsaw where he conducted a large business and reared a family of six children in the Christian faith.
Coming to America as a lad of 17, Harry enjoyed the hospitality of his uncle, a Jew, who resided in Philadelphia. Forgetting entirely his denominational affiliation, Harry lived as a Jew, marrying a Jewish girl and rearing his children in the Jewish faith.
Advanced in years, his wife dead, his children married, Hirschfeld recalled his official status and was haunted by the idea that when he died he may be refused burial according to Jewish rites. For this reason he made the trip to Warsaw, Mr. Hirschfeld told the Warsaw rabbis.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.