A Triple Run
NASCK’s mission to promote kavod hameis expresses itself in a multitude of programs, including end-of-life preparedness events; a variety of websites, each marketed to a different demographic; and the establishment of a non-profit cemetery. Every once in a while, we see how a person’s contact with one program leads them to another, and sometimes even a third.
Harold Gold was the youngest of eleven children. At 89, he was the last one still alive, living with dementia in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Harold’s family had always been staunchly “traditional;” his niece Susie remembers her Uncle Harold insisting, Jews don’t cremate! whenever the subject arose at a family gathering. But she also noticed that as time went on, cremation seemed to crop up with increasing frequency within the extended family — and not just as a topic of conversation.
Two years ago, when his wife passed away, Uncle Harold’s daughters explained to him that the cost of providing proper health care meant that there wasn’t enough money to bury their mother. And so she was cremated.
Susie understood that the same fate awaited Uncle Harold, but did not know what she could possibly do about it. When she saw an ad for Shabbos Vayechi’s EndCremation workshop, she signed up right away.
After the workshop, she spoke to her cousins, and then conferred with Yael Davidowitz, who directs NASCK’s anti-cremation initiatives: End Cremation, which works to educate Orthodox Jews about how to intervene with friends and family, and Last Kindness, which reaches out to the broader Jewish community.
Speaking with her cousins, and then conferring with Yael, Susie was able to identify that what really bothered them was the amount of concrete they saw being utilized in gravesites. “If it could really be ‘dust to dust,’ that would be different,” one cousin told her. Moreover, after years of caregiving, the daughters did not have the emotional and physical wherewithal for the paperwork that burial involved. Cremation, on the other hand, could be handled with just one phone call.
That was all Yael needed to hear.
She suggested that Susie mention NASCK’s South Florida Jewish Cemetery to her cousins. It is a certified green cemetery — no concrete! — and its mission to provide kevurah k’halacha to every Jew meant that the staff would streamline the paperwork, making burial as “convenient” as cremation.
Harold’s daughters spoke with the SFJC staff, and were impressed with their sensitivity and flexibility. They canceled the “Jewish cremation package” they had already paid for, and purchased a plot at the cemetery.
A few months later, Uncle Harold passed away, and Susie and her cousins came together at the funeral. The service was moving, with the daughters participating wholeheartedly. Susie had told them that she had been in touch with an organization named Last Kindness, and they were happy to be able to perform the last act of kindness and caring they could for their father.
Susie wrote a letter of appreciation to the staff at the cemetery, saying, “My family would like to thank you for your respectful sensitivity, flexibility and kindness at the levaya of my Uncle Harold. My cousins were both left with a feeling of peace and closure and thanked me for finding this wonderful cemetery. I firmly believe that the creation and administration of the unique South Florida Jewish Cemetery was key in allowing my uncle to receive the kavod acharon of kevurah! Kudos to you!”
While SFJC certainly made their usual great impression (the Cemetery’s unofficial motto is “Making a Kiddush Hashem Every Day”), the credit truly belongs to the entire NASCK organization, which never stops innovating new programs in order to increase the level of kavod hameis in the world.