Brooklyn Boro

Raking an Effort: Brandeis Society helps clean up Jewish cemetery

November 14, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Justice Miriam Cyrulnik and Rabbi Andrew Parver teamed up for the Brandeis Society of Brooklyn’s inaugural Day of Service event where members helped clean up a Jewish cemetery in Staten Island. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Brandeis Society held its inaugural Day of Service event where its members headed to Silver Lake Cemetery in Staten Island to help clean up on Sunday morning.

The group joined volunteers from the Hebrew Free Burial Association and spent Sunday morning at the Silver Lake Cemetery raking leaves and picking up garbage and debris from the historic Jewish cemetery.

“I became aware of the Hebrew Free Burial Association (HFBA) from making donations to it,” said Justice Miriam Cyrulnik, president of the Brooklyn Brandeis Society (BBS). “They were sponsoring this day to come and clean up the cemetery. I figured that this was something that our members would be interested in, and they certainly responded positively and a lot showed up today despite it being a holiday weekend.”

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The association is a 128-year-old nonprofit that is designed to ensure that every Jewish person receives a proper burial. It operated the Silver Lake Cemetery from 1892 until 1909 and buried approximately 13,500 people during that 17-year span. Because Silver Lake Cemetery is no longer operational, the HFBA uses a nearby cemetery in Staten Island to continue its mission.

“This is our oldest cemetery which we used regularly from 1892-1909,” said Rabbi Andrew J. Parver, director of operations for the HFBA.

“Maintaining the cemetery is enormously expensive, so any help that we have is something that really helps us focus our resources on burying people,” Parver said. “Anything that we can save and allocate toward that effort is a big benefit to us. We usually have 15 to 20 people out here helping us, but including the Brandeis Society we have closer to 50 today.”

Members of the Brandeis Society were eager to work, too. One member, Hon. Esther Morgenstern, said that burial sites can be extremely important to the Jewish community.

“I just got back from Poland where I found no graves,” Judge Morgenstern said. “This is really important and beautiful because it gives people a place where they can visit their loved ones.”

At the end of a morning of raking and removing debris, members of the Brandeis Society found out that the organization has nearly $50,000 tied up in the Brooklyn courts and a few of the BBS members were eager to help out if they could.

“We appreciate their need for people to come help them clean up the cemetery, but we could seriously help them if we can find a way to help them to navigate their legal troubles,” said BBS member Andrew Fallek. “We’ll follow up on that to see if we can’t free up some of that money for them.”

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