JCANA Blog

Disaster Management

In March, 2010 the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts experienced the worst flooding in over 100 years on the Baker Street Memorial Park Cemetery in West Roxbury. Nearly half of the 50 cemetery complex was underwater and impassable by funeral processions since the roadway was under 20” of water for 4 weeks. And in the cemetery profession, 4 weeks is an eternity!

 

In Judaism, interments can’t wait for the flood waters to recede. The decedent must be interred by the next day if possible. So JCAM made sites available at our cemeteries on Baker Street unaffected by the flood at no cost to the families. JCAM arranged for Charter Buses (38 seaters) to transport people attending funerals to these cemeteries. We also arranged for a handicap bus to transport the casket separately.

We arranged for 24 hour pumping by 2 heavy-duty water pumps.

All at no cost to the families, yet still it was not enough!

While independent Jewish cemeteries can decide matters on narrow economic issues impacting on them, JCAM cannot. We are viewed through the lens of a higher standard of communal responsibility.

So the Rabbis told us that it was unfair to the families impacted by this act of G-d to pay once for an interment of the decedent in the temporary site and then, to pay again for the re-interment of the decedent in their permanent site when conditions permitted. We are the communal agency of Chesed, the Rabbi’s reasoned, and we must answer the call in times of community need.

Sensitivity means listening to the moral voices within the Jewish community. And so JCAM paid for all the re-interments of these families resting at temporary sites on Baker Street.

It was a good lesson for us. JCAM has built its reputation on doing what is right first and then dealing with the economics later. Half measures, no matter how well intended, just aren’t enough. We must remember this lesson moving forward.

This Baker Street flooding crisis served as a humbling experience for JCAM. We are measured by a whole other set of standards and that’s what sets us apart, I think we’ve got it now.

I intend to ask our Board of Directors to allocate funds to a new emergency account for use during future emergencies so we will have the resources standing by when called upon.

B’Shalom,

Stan Kaplan, JCAM Executive Director