Not Just Tables and Chairs

As the frum community mourns the loss of Reb Yankie Meyer z”l, people are coming forward with stories of their personal experiences with Misaskim, the organization Reb Yankie started which assists families in the event of the loss of a loved one. Misaskim, started in 2004, provides bereaved family members with sifrei Torah, appropriate chairs for shiva, and many other necessities. But that’s far from all that they do; Reb Yankie expanded his organization to provide a full range of services, including ensuring kovod hameis when doctors want to perform autopsies. Forming relationships with politicians and medical personnel helped Misaskim save many niftarim from such desecrations.

The following story is an example of the life’s work of Reb Yankie, an askan par excellence.


When Hatzalah appeared at our door to inform us of the bitter news that fateful Thursday evening, Yanky Meyer slipped in to our house and set up a mini OEM in our home. Like a well oiled machine he followed a script which he must’ve performed countless times before.

The first order of business was to identify the immediate next of kin and close family and dispatch social workers accompanied by Hatzolah members to inform them of the tragedy before they get the news from social media.

The next order of business was to get nearby relatives and family friends into the house to support those of us at home. Then it was necessary to bring our 12 year old son and the grandparents home from the camp and country in the Catskills in the company of Hatzolah members.

One of our married sons was in the air, en-route to LA with his three infants and they had to be located and informed, turned around in LAX and passage secured for them in sufficient time to make it home for what we hoped would be a Friday morning levaya.

Yankie Meyer and the Misaskim organization arranged all that from our dining room table in record time, while allowing us to absorb the shock of our loss with the utmost sensitivity to our privacy.

They were in touch with the Canadian askonim on the scene throughout the night and when it became apparent that the authorities would not release our son for burial immediately, Yankie went into overdrive and got in touch with the multitudes of politicians and bureaucrats that he has worked with before, and remained one step ahead of the forensic investigators and medical examiner.

Misaskim pulled a trick out of their hat and had a medical examiner from a US jurisdiction guide the French Canadians on how to deal with the conflicting agendas of of kevod haniftar and their legal mandates. They were successful in obtaining a stay, and the coroner’s office did step back and agreed to do non-invasive imaging, and toxicology labs as opposed to following their strict protocol.

It is important for the readers to be aware that this didn’t occur on terra firma in New York where the askanim have long established connections. This was unfamiliar territory; Misaskim was dealing with suburban Quebec officials who in their entire careers haven’t worked from Friday 430pm until Monday 9am.

All of the sudden they were getting calls from the Governors of New York and New Jersey on their private cellphones after hours…..

The French Canadians took this case very seriously, as I heard from the top health ministry official of Quebec myself, on a conference call. “We have an obligation to society and to this young man in particular, to find out why this healthy young boy died, and we will fight you in court at every level to fulfill our obligation. If you continue to fight us this may not be resolved for months, perhaps a year.”

Yankie Meyer and his colleagues, Yanky Landau and Mr.Wiel, accompanied me to my Rov and explained every detail to the leading Rabbonim that my Rov consulted with.

Misaskim retained the Canadian law firm and Yankie Meyer ordered the stunned lead attorney, “Get on the phone with so and so, the attorney for the local Muslim activists, and consult with him. Ask him what his modus operandi would be in this situation. The response came back, “Oh, we follow your guy, he’s got a much better track record than we do.”

At some point on Friday, Misaskim also contracted a private airplane that was sent with my eldest son to pick up the remains, at the moment that there was a chance that the Quebec health ministry would accede and accept the medical theory submitted by a prominent sympathetic frum doctor to get our son released.

Dear readers, what I learned in the five days that Misaskim was ensconced in my house was that you only know a portion of what Misaskim does because they are highly sensitive to kavod hameis and the family’s dignity.

Boruch Hashem in our case, there is no cloud; Shmuly passed away in a yeshivah camp while his Gemara was open on the table.

Misaskim is called to duty in many less dignified instances where violence, sometimes self-inflicted, is a concern. These cases are unfortunately not uncommon and cost thousands of dollars to resolve quietly and expeditiously. Yet it is done discreetly without the awareness of the public at large, to the financial detriment of the organization.

After all, an appeal for chairs and water-coolers is much less poignant than the triumph of Misaskim against overzealous coroners.

To me Misaskim is no longer about tables and chairs….

.               and now you know the rest of the story!

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