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The Hebrew Free Burial Association: Yahrzeit program

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Contributed by : Louis H. Blumengarten

Object # 855

March 1, 2011

Mt Richmond Cemetery is the last resting place of 22 Triangle Fire victims. The Jewish calendar is based on the moon, while the western calendar is based on the sun. The Triangle fire occurred in the afternoon of March 25, 1911 which corresponds to the 25th day of Adar in the Jewish calendar. In 2011, the 25th of Adar occurred on March 1st. That is the Yahrzeit (Yiddish for the anniversary of the death), the date when the memorial prayers would be said. The ceremony was very moving and I am glad that I attended.

  • Yahrzeit Program PDF
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    Mt Richmond Cemetery, deep in Staten Island, is administered by the Hebrew Free Burial Association (HFBA), an organization founded in 1888 by a group of philantrophic and community-minded Jews who were committed to burying indigent Jews according to Jewish tradition rather than having them buried in mass paupers’ graves.  Mt Richmond is not one of the great landscaped cemeteries, but is the last resting place of poor Jews and it looks it.

    The HFBA organized a Yahrzeit ceremony on March 1, 2011. Amy Koplow, HFBA Executive Director, spoke about the fire , spoke in detail about some of the victims who are buried at Mt Richmond Cemetery and read the English and Jewish names of all 22 who are buried at Mt Richmond Cemetery.  Then the HFBA’s Cemetery Chaplain, Rabbi Shmuel Plafker, led the assembled in an English rendition of the 23rd Psalm.  Then he chanted the “Ayl mo-lay ra-chamin” (“oh God full of compassion”) prayer for the male victims followed by the same prayer for the female victims, mentioning each by their Jewish name.  He then recited the Kaddish prayer, an expression of praise to God which is in the Aramaic language.  That prayer has come to be regarded as the standard Jewish mourner’s prayer.  It conveys the idea of the necessity to accept God’s judgement.

    The assembled had the opportunity then to walk among the monuments to the 22 Triangle Fire victims and, if they wished, to observe the Jewish custom of placing a stone on top of the monuments.

    – Louis H. Blumengarten

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