Triangle factory fire’s indigent victims remembered


(JTA) — The 22 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire buried by the Hebrew Free Burial Association were remembered in a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of their deaths.

The ceremony, conducted Tuesday by the association at a cemetery on Staten Island, N.Y., came on the yahrzeit of Adar 25 according to the Hebrew calendar. It included Kaddish over the graves, the El Moleh Rachamim prayer and the reading of the victims’ names.

About 50 participants placed stones on each of the graves. The participants included members of a group of men who take turns attending funerals at the cemetery to make sure there is a minyan in order to say Kaddish, according to The New York Times.

On March 25, 1911, 146 people — 102 of them Jewish — died in the factory’s fire in Greenwich Village. Most of the victims were young, underpaid, immigrant women who worked long hours in unhealthy, unsafe conditions. The fire led to major changes in workplace labor and fire safety laws.

"Being mass produced, using a relatively modest amount of fabric, the shirtwaist was the first example of something fashionable and affordable for all women as it  was produced for all price points," Amy Koplow, executive director of the Hebrew Free Burial Association, said during the memorial. She gave personal details about each of the victims, 4 men and 18 women, buried in the cemetery.  "In a sense you could say the shirtwaist was the first significant garment that democratized fashion for women. It is ironic that this garment that gave every woman the opportunity to be fashionable was produced under dreadful conditions in sweatshops."

The Hebrew Free Burial Association, which was established in 1888 to provide Jewish burials for indigent Jews, beginning with poor immigrants who arrived to New York’s Lower East Side, has interred more than 60,000 people in New York. It now buries an average of 300 people per year. 

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