Next Sunday, 10 March is the twenty-eighth of the month of Adar, the seventh anniversary of the elections for the Seventeenth Knesset. On that day, we buried Marvin.
A few months earlier, I had received an email from J. It was the first I had heard from her - or anyone in her close family - though I knew who they were because I had done some work on their family's genealogy. She wrote:
I commented that "It was not our doing" sounded like this was the "evil second wife," which indeed turned out to be the case. I think Marvin's daughters inherited the "big jar" from her after she died. Perhaps "took possession" is a better term. By the time of our correspondence, Marvin had been dead for eleven years.MY FATHER'S ASHES ARE IN A BIG JAR ON TOP OF THE ARMOIRE !!!!AWFUL--- I VERY MUCH WANT TO BURY HIM IN ISRAEL , AND FIND A PLACE FOR MEAND MY FAMILY TO BE BURIED AS WELL.IT WAS NOT OUR DOING TO CREMATE HIM, BUT IT HAPPENED.RETURNING HIM TO ISRAEL WILL DRAW MY SISTERS AND MY NEICES AND NEPHEWS.IT IS HARD TO APPRECIATE WHAT A MIRACLE IT IS THAT I HAVE GOTTEN BOTH OF MYTEENAGE NEPHEWS TO WANT TO VISIT ISRAEL THIS WINTER VACATION!!!!!AND FOR THEIR MOTHER TO ALLOW THEM!!!!!!WE HAVE WORKED ON THEM FOR A YEAR!!!I WAS RESEARCHING HOW TO DO THIS , WHEN I FOUND YOU ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB.THAT PART IS AMAZING. I DO NOT NEED ANYTHING FANCY LIKE JERUSALEM , DO YOUTHINK YOU CAN GIVE ME ANY LEADS ON WHO TO CALL?MY HEBREW IS MINIMAL, AND I AM CAUTIOUS AS THIS MAY BE A WAY THAT AMERICANSCAN GET 'RIPPED OFF'.
I know a bit about burials, having been an active member of the Jewish Sacred Society in Chicago, a volunteer organization which prepares bodies for halachic Jewish burial. (My day was Monday.) But I knew nothing about burying ashes in a Jewish cemetery. I did not even know, for instance, if an Israeli cemetery would accept such a burial.
At the time, we were living in Gush Etzion, about fifteen minutes south of Jerusalem, so I called one of the burial societies in Jerusalem to clarify the ground rules and costs. They said they had no problem, provided the deceased met two conditions. One that he is Jewish. The other that the cremation had not been at his own instruction. Marvin met both conditions, though I was not sure how they might want me to prove either one. What they did not require, to my surprise, is some proof that the ashes were actually Marvin.
The bigger surprise was the cost. They said they would not charge anything. So much for Americans getting ripped off.
Over the next few months, I discussed with J the technical questions of actually doing this, in particular, the timing. She wanted her sister A and A's two teen-aged sons to be involved in this burial. A third sister wanted nothing to do with it. And their mother didn't understand whay anyone would bother. (J herself has no children.) We finally settled on late March, when they could all make the trip. I suggested the upcoming election day, since here in Israel election day is a day off work.
I discussed the whole matter with my local rabbi and in the process learned that ashes do not have the halachic status of a dead body, so there is no problem transporting them even in the presence of a kohen. No need, for instance, to transport the urn in the baggage compartment of the plane. In fact, A's sons are kohanim and my rabbi said they could even participate fully in the burial, so long as they stayed the proper distance from real graves. I also learned that we should bury him in the urn, rather than say dumping the ashes into the grave.
Eventually we decided that for the sake of convenience, we would bury Marvin in our local cemetery near Kefar Etzion, rather than in Jerusalem. I discussed this with the head of the local burial society and he had no problem. We picked out a spot off to the side. He had one condition, that the place be properly marked, so no one would inadvertently dig it up later. It was understood that there would be a donation.
The big day came. I voted early, put some shovels in my car and later in the morning, drove down to the Ayala junction - near where David offed Goliath - to meet their van. Their hired driver was not pleased with coming up to Gush Etzion, which he considered "cowboy country" and kept insisting that he wanted it to be over quickly. They - J and her husband, A and her sons - followed me for the fifteen minute drive up the hill.
|Meir ben Yosef HaLevi
Over a period of probably a year, I reminded J and A (whom I met when I was in New York a few months later) about the marker for the grave and the donation for the cemetery. Nothing ever came of either.
So much for Americans getting ripped off.
May Marvin rest in peace and may he be an advocate for his family.
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The Pickholtz DNA Project at Family Tree DNA is growing. For now, I have been asking specific people to test, though others who wish to to so are welcome. I would request that if you do, you tell me so I can add you to the Project. This holds for members of my other family lines, as well.
Those who wish to contribute to the Project without actually testing are welcome to give a donation. This can be done online here. Thank you.