I applaud your fine article on the threats to Jewish cemeteries from outside and from inside our own communities (“Words Alone Do Not Suffice,” March 1, 2017). Certainly we need to be vigilant and responsive to vandalism and desecration of our cemeteries, and to enlist the assistance of the governmental authorities to do so. However, the longer-term damage is sometimes the result of the lack of attention from the Jewish community itself. You correctly point out that while most of our cemeteries are well cared for, there are some that are deteriorating.
Our organization, the Community Alliance for Jewish Affiliated Cemeteries (CAJAC), has been assisting distressed cemeteries in the N.Y. area for a number of years. We are a non-profit organization supported by UJA and other donors, and provide advice and assistance to those cemeteries that request it. We routinely bring groups of volunteers from yeshivos, synagogues, scouting groups, and other organizations that wish to help address the physical problems at older, sometimes “orphaned” cemeteries, and to learn about our obligations to honor those who came before us. We also assist by helping to instill “Best Practices” at cemeteries that are looking for management guidance. In addition, we help the broader community to find graves of loved ones.
We hope that you will continue to raise awareness in our community of our responsibility to fulfill the sacred task of preserving the sanctity of Jewish cemeteries, ensuring their physical well-being, and providing for their financial stability into perpetuity.
Alan Friedman, President, Board of Directors, Community Alliance for Jewish-Affiliated Cemeteries (CAJAC), New York, NY