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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


 

This week I was privileged to be involved with two unfortunate similar situations. The good news is that both were resolved in the best way possible.

The first case had to do with a Jewish man who passed away at age 102. Due to a lack of funds for a proper Jewish burial, his family was going to have the deceased cremated. As I’m sure you are aware, from a traditional Jewish perspective, cremation is absolutely and totally unacceptable. Judaism teaches that our bodies are to be considered as a conditional gift from G-d to be used as He has directed. In numerous places in the Torah, it is made clear that “By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground for from it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” (Gen. 3:19). 

One of our congregants brought this terrible situation to my attention. With the help of Sam Salkin of Sinai Memorial Chapels, I was able to make sure that the decesaed would have a proper Jewish burial, which will take place next Tuesday morning. If you might be inclined to help in defraying the cost of the funeral or participating in the actual service, please let me know. 

A day later, I received a call from a woman in New York, whose brother-in-law had passed away all alone around Thanksgiving in his San Francisco apartment. The death was discovered some time later, due to the unpleasant smell coming from the apartment. Since no one was aware that this person had any relatives, the death was being dealt with by the San Francisco Public Administrator. Understandably, the city was looking to take care of this in the most cost-effective way. However, luckily, the city was in no rush to do so. The deceased’s neighbor spent a lot of time researching and was able to track down the man’s family in New York. 

So, how did this end up coming my way? Well, the man’s sister in-law, a professor at NYU, asked around to see if anybody had a SF connection. Lo and behold, a person there knew my predecessor - R. Strulowitz! 

By now, time was of the essence. The city had just dispatched the deceased to a mortuary that was about to take care of him in the most cost-effective way. I immediately contacted Sam Salkin and Baruch Hashem, he was able to arrange for a proper Jewish Burial.

In my opinion, both of these cases demonstrate the importance of being part of a community and how “when the chips are down,” don’t give up hope – your Jewish brother and sisters will be there for you.