Riverdale News

Chesed Shel Emet: Riverdale toasts Hebrew Free Burial Association


In a community with much affluence, there are “Jews who die penniless and alone,” Riverdale’s annual benefit for the Hebrew Free Burial Association  was told.

Just since Jan. 1 this year, final rites were arranged for 105 such Jews by the HFBA, with each treated “with dignity and respect,” Executive Director Amy Koplow told a breakfast gathering at the Riverdale Jewish Center. “Many don’t have $11,000 plus for a funeral and burial in a Jewish cemetery.”

Abby Marcus (pictured), who teamed up with HFBA ten years ago when she was recruited onto its young leadership team, was presented with the Lev HaOlam Award for  her work in collecting and shipping urgently needed supplies to members of the IDF in the months following Oct. 7.

“It wasn’t just the cash raised, or the duffle bags — hundreds, thousands — she sent to Israel — there was something about Abby’s process, the community that she built representing all of Riverdale, the relationships that she built at JFK airport, at Ben Gurion airport,” said RJC’s Rabbi Dovid Zirkind.

Marcus’ undertaking was an “incredible mission” that deepened our bond with Israel, he said, calling it incredible work for am Yisrael.”

Recounting her work with HFBA a decade ago, Marcus asked, “How do you get the next generation to care about concepts that are off their radar? How do you get the next generation to care about concepts that are off their radar?”

The young leadership group successed, she said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we know one another to help one another.”

HFBA insures that every Jew, regardless of affiliation, receives a proper halachic burial.

“In times of need, a Jew is a jew and we show up” Koploaw said.

“Jews who die penniless may die alone,” said explained. “Without family to claim body in New York City, remains are stored in a medical examiner’s morgue. Your name goes on a list in a national database of unclaimed dead. Months usually pass until burial.”

HFBA checks the data several times a week and pursues cases that might be Jewish, hunting for clues about these forgotten people’s lives.”

“Once confirming Jewish without family “we then must deal with the NYC bureaucracy to get these cases released for burial,” Koplow said, reporting that there are now nine open cases, two more than a year ago.

“Without HFBA’s hard work, these Jewish decedants would be sent to burial in mass graves in city cemetery [on Hart Island] where 1.800 go each year.

“With your help, city cemetery need not be the fate of any Jew in our city.”