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Rockland County, NY - Facebook Post Triggers Events Culminating In Proper Religious Burial For Jewish War Veteran

Published on: July 15, 2015 05:33 PM
Last updated on: July 15, 2015 11:49 PM
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The casket of Landsman was buried in a pine box, lowered into the ground by Volunteers of the Rockland County Orthodox Jewish community (Photo: Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz)The casket of Landsman was buried in a pine box, lowered into the ground by Volunteers of the Rockland County Orthodox Jewish community (Photo: Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz)

Rockland County, NY - It was a Facebook post in a local Monsey group that set in motion a chain of events that ended with a Jewish war veteran receiving a proper burial in accordance with Orthodox Jewish law.

Max Landsman, a World War II veteran, died at Weinberg Village in Tampa on Sunday at the age of 96.

A former Monsey resident and a father of six who had 16 grandchildren and great grandchildren, Landsman was due to be buried today next to his wife Ida at the Frederick W. Loescher Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Spring Valley. 

Mordechai Zev Volf Landsman (courtesy Bais Menachem Chabad Tampa Florida) Mordechai Zev Volf Landsman (courtesy Bais Menachem Chabad Tampa Florida)

His daughter, Gloria Levine, who lives in Florida and was unable to attend the funeral for health reasons, was concerned that there would not be a minyan at the cemetery and posted a request on Facebook asking for help assembling the requisite ten people. Levine’s posted was shared last night by a cousin in Brooklyn to the Monsey Area Neighborhood Facebook group where word of the funeral began to spread.

After hearing of the planned levaya, Wesley Hills resident Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz began working the phones trying to arrange both minyan and a full Jewish burial in an Orthodox Jewish cemetery.

“I knew it was a non-Jewish cemetery,” Rabbi Gewirtz told VIN News.  “I spoke to Chesed Shel Emes, the Hebrew Free Burial Society, the heads of the chevra kadisha of both Rockland and Monsey/New Square.  Things were difficult because Mr. Landsman’s daughter was having medical treatments last night when all this was going on and I went back and forth with the cousin in Brooklyn.  As of this morning we were told that nothing was going to change about the burial location, to please just try and get a minyan.”

Details about the Landsman levaya were sent out to Monsey shuls through email and social media, asking anyone in the area at the designated time to please attend the funeral.  Approximately 30 men from Monsey’s diverse Jewish community came to pay their respects to Landsman, who also received a full military funeral.

Military personnel attending the funeral. (Photo: Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz)Military personnel attending the funeral. (Photo: Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz)

“You had to see what this looked like,” said Rabbi Gewirtz. “This is a small cemetery, but there was a line of cars around the entire perimeter.  People came on their lunch hour. There were men in suits, bekeshes and jeans, young and old.  People who just cared kept on coming.”

Rockland County Legislator, Aron Wieder was one of those who turned out for the levaya.

“I got the message maybe five or ten minutes before the funeral,” said Wieder.  “Someone who came at the same time as me saw that there was a minyan and he left. I had a similar urge but I saw that he was a veteran and my in laws are Holocaust survivors.  I said to myself I have to stay there to be a part of this beautiful mitvah. It pulled me in and the half hour or forty five minutes I spent there, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.”

Rabbi Daniel Pernack of the Beth Am Temple in Pearl River was the only scheduled speaker for the funeral but the family also gave Rabbi Gewirtz permission to deliver a eulogy.

“I spoke about how the parsha discusses that soldiers get a tenfold share of the spoils of war because Hashem appreciates those who serve and how Mr. Landsman was a man of service,” said Rabbi Gewirtz.

Cemetery workers reluctantly agreed to allow two members of Monsey’s Jewish community to lower the niftar into the ground. Both family members and those who came from Monsey covered the aron with dirt as required by halacha.

“Mr. Landsman’s daughter was watching the funeral on FaceTime and at one point I stopped with a shovel full of dirt and said to her, ‘Gloria, this is Jonathan.  I am putting this one on for you,’” said Rabbi Gewirtz.  “She said ‘Thank you’ and she clearly saw everything that was going on here.”

Rabbi Gewirtz spoke to Rabbi Ephraim Pessin to confirm that the burial had proceeded according to Orthodox Jewish tradition.

“If he had a proper tahara, which he did, and he was buried in a pine box, which he was, and if he was lowered into the ground by people who are Shomer Shabbos, which he was and if he was covered with dirt by Jews, then it is a proper kever yisroel,” said Rabbi Gewirtz.

Landsman’s granddaughters, Kim Valdez and Lauren Sherman, were both visibly touched by the Monsey community’s response to the request for a minyan.

“I have no words,” said Valdez.  “I was completely blown away. It was so heartwarming.”

“My heart was so full when I saw what was happening,” said Sherman. “We were so touched by everyone’s generosity and the outpouring of time. It was such a mitzvah to do this and we recognize that.  We were overwhelmed and amazed that a community came together like that for a total stranger.”

Both cousins agreed that their grandfather would have been touched by today’s events.

“My zayda would have been so humbled,” said Valdez. “He would have been just nodding his head and smiling to see what happened here today.”

Video below shows Max had his first aliya at the age of 95 on Jan. 2, 2014, at Tampa Florida Bais Menachem Chabad run by Rabbi Levi Rivkin.


Rockland County Legislator, Aron Wieder was one of those who turned out for the levaya.Rockland County Legislator, Aron Wieder was one of those who turned out for the levaya.
(Photo: Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz) (Photo: Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz)

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Read Comments (6)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jul 15, 2015 at 05:41 PM Howie18 Says:

Beautiful, what a Kiddush Hashem
and and a show of Ahavat Yisroel !!

2

 Jul 16, 2015 at 11:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Yes a wonderful kiddush hashem. Now may I propose we use this act of chesed as a stepping stone for further chesed. As far as I know there is no mosad yet, to help regular FFB's who loose a loved one and have no money for their burials. There are countless stories of levayas held up becuase family members could not afford it. Can we expand into that too? Or perhaps an askan can bargian with established chevra kedishas too forgive or accept minimum payments for those that can't afford. Whatever works best but I think its time that something gets done.

3

 Jul 16, 2015 at 01:42 PM sissel613 Says:

How wonderful--thank you for posting this feel good article. Thank you to him and all our war heroes. We appreciate your service.

4

 Jul 17, 2015 at 01:23 AM rabbidan17 Says:

This is an example of how members of the Orthodox and non-Orthodox community can work together to perform mitzvot and to further the feeling of ahavat Yisrael. I want to thank everyone who showed up to ensure a minyan. I understand that the minhag I employed for the levaya differs in some respects from that of those who came to make the minyan. However, I appreciate the respect they showed me and the niftar. As a community, we can accomplish much more when we work together and treat each other with derekh eretz, rather than the sinat hinam which often afflicts us. As the Yamim Noraim approach, may we remember our community is when we stand together, even though we will not always agree.
Rabbi Daniel Pernick (not "Pernack")

5

 Jul 22, 2015 at 01:39 AM rabbidan17 Says:

That last line should read "our community is STRONGER" when we stand together, even though we will not always agree. DP

6

 Jul 27, 2015 at 05:51 PM Shlomo8 Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Yes a wonderful kiddush hashem. Now may I propose we use this act of chesed as a stepping stone for further chesed. As far as I know there is no mosad yet, to help regular FFB's who loose a loved one and have no money for their burials. There are countless stories of levayas held up becuase family members could not afford it. Can we expand into that too? Or perhaps an askan can bargian with established chevra kedishas too forgive or accept minimum payments for those that can't afford. Whatever works best but I think its time that something gets done.

Anon... you can start your own road to chesed by not excluding BTs in your suggestions. I know many FFBs who can't come close to some BTs in chesed.

7

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