CHAPTER ONE - The Background
The Judean Hills from Yedidyah's grave
Michele is an American who was working in Tel-Aviv for several years. She contacted me back a few months after I first began accepting clients, about three and a years ago, to see if I could locate her great-grandfather's grave on the Mt. of Olives. Yedidyah Choper had been born in Volkovysk Poland (now Belarus), and had gone to New York before 1900. He came here to live his final years sometime after his third wife Alte died in 1923. Michele wasn't sure when he had died beyond "between 1945 and 1947."
Yedidyah had five sons. Three went to the US early on, one was killed in the Holocaust and one survived and went to the US afterwards. No one is quite sure which of the sons is from which of his first two wives.
Later Michele wrote of a visitor Yedidyah received, his grandson, Manny.
With a few phone calls, I determined that Yedidyah was buried in a section that was nominally under the jurisdiction of the Hassidim Burial Society, in row thirty-two, grave 11 in one of several sub-sections that belong to an organization called Agudat Achim that brings Americans for burial here in Jerusalem, occasionally burying Americans who lived here. Hassidim told us that he had died on 27 Adar 5705, sixty-seven years ago this week.
He was a pilot in the Army Air Corps - had taken some generals to Cairo for a meeting in '44 (I think) and got leave to visit his Zayde in Palestine.
Yedidyah and Manny
|Michele at Yedidyah's gravesite
CHAPTER TWO - The Challenge
About a year later, I heard from Michele again. She wanted to put up a stone on Yedidyah's grave. That would include designing the epitaph, since we had no idea what had been written on the original stone.
I was at the cemetery yesterday to confirm the location of the grave, so that I could give specific directions to the stonemaker.
It turns out it is not as simple as we had thought.
According to your photo, your ggf's grave is in the row that starts with Chaim Shelomo Goloventzitz, and is adjacent to the grave of Chaim Alexander Ziskind.I called the Burial Society and spoke with Natan, who is my usual connection there and who was not available the day we went together. Natan has your ggf's grave in the next row to the west, that begins with Yehoshua Zelik Tarshish. This row sort of splits into two due to the topography and Nathan says that your ggf is in the "half row" that leads from the Tarshish row.
When I tried to get more specific, intending to record the individual names in that half-row, he made a reference to the graves of Meir Philips and Gershon Gottesman as being eight graves apart. In fact, those two gravestones are side by side. So it is clear that either Natan's records are not correct or the new Gottesman stone was put in the wrong place.
Now this whole section is subcontracted to a burial society called Agudat Achim and Natan suggested that they would have more precise information. So I called the man there, presented the problem and he said that he would have a close look at this in the days after Yom Kippur. I shall, therefore, get back to him next Thursday.
I spoke with the fellow from the burial society a few days ago. He says they have done everything they can using both maps and tools at the site.
He is fairly sure which is the grave site, but is not 100% positive, therefore he cannot permit the erection of a new monument
We decided where we thought the grave site is and took counsel from a senior rabbi. He had the authority of Halacha, but had no administrative authority over the burial societies. He said we should put the stone where we thought the grave was, but instead of writing "po nitman" (here lies buried), we should write "bahelka zo nitman" (in this section lies buried).He is planning to put a plain slab on the spot and will show us where. This is not a satisfactory answer as far as I am concerned, but I am not sure what we can do about it. I will speak with some outside rabbis on the subject.
We settled on the inscription, on the types of stone, the height and the molten-lead lettering. I sent the stonemaker a Word file and he faxed me back the final design as it appeared on his computer.
The full inscription was to read:
In this section lies buried
A man dear to his wife, children,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren,
ben R' Israel Zeev
Born in Volkovysk,
Died in Jerusalem
on 27 Adar 5705
May his soul be bound in life.
This stone erected in 5770 by his descendants.