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January 18, 1974 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1974-01-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Machpelah Cemetery Subject of Circuit Court Suit Over Control

Can a cemetery that was
organized by three syna-
gogues be controlled as a
privately managed project?
Do the synagogues have legal
recourse to regain supervi-
These questions will be
tackled Monday morning in
Oakland County Circuit
Court, when 63 - year - old
Machpelah Cemetery is the
subject of a suit brought by
two of the founding congrega-
tions. Judge James Thorburn
will preside.
Organized in 1910 by
Congs. Shaarey Zedek (then
Orthodox), Beth Jacob and
Bnai Israel, the cemetery
continued under the super-
vision of the latter two after
Shaarey Zedek withdrew
from the partnership in 1913,
receiving five acres as its
share. The five acres were
sold later to Nusach H'ari.
Cemetery directors at the
founding were David Oppen-
heim, David Meister and
Moses Kaufman, each of
whom—the plaintiffs declare
—held 79 of the 250 shares
of the Machpelah Cemetery
Association as representa-
tives of their respective con-
The remaining 13 shares
were distributed to other
members and officers of the
congregations in accordance
with the articles of associa-
Although he represented
Shaarey Zedek on the ceme-
tery board, Oppenheim re-
mained a trustee after his
congregation withdrew from
membership in the associa-
tion and released its interest
in Machpelah, the plaintiffs




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Oppenheim, who died in
1943, was succeeded in the
trusteeship by his sons. The
latter, named as defendants
in the suit, are Royal, Theo-
dore and Edwin, as well as
Oppenheim's son-in-law, Al-
wyn Freeman.
The Oppenheims have said
they are simply carrying on
the work and great interest
of their father in maintaining
the cemetery. Over the years,
David Oppenheim's involve-
ment in the management
grew in proportion to the
congregations' dwindling par-
ticipation, the defendants
say, adding that they are
only interested in keeping
the nonprofit cemetery run-
ning in a responsible fash-
Now, representatives of
the two synagogues that or-
iginally participated in the
formation of Machpelah --
they are known as Beth
Jacob-Mogain Abraham and
Bnai Israel-Beth Yehudah
because of mergers in re-
cent years—claim the right
to direct the cemetery.
They contend that, un-
known to them, the Oppen-
heims perpetuated t h e m-
selves in trustee roles and
that in 1940, under a new
statute, "caused the life of
the cemetery association to
be extended in perpetuity by
filing articles of reorganiza-
tion." In the latter, the names
of the defendants appeared
as "de facto" directors, the
suit charges.
John Rogers, attorney for
the plaintiffs, said that while
the Opperiheims did not vio-
late the letter of the law,
they violated its spirit. Notice
of the change was not given
directly to others with an in-
terest in the cemetery asso-
ciation but was simply posted
on the cemetery wall, he
The defendants have held
trustee elections "with only
themselves present and only
themselves notified of such



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accordance with Orthodox
tradition, as intended by the
founding congregations.
It is admitted that burial
rights of their members have
been recognized by the Mach-
pelah Cemetery Association,
as drawn up in the original
agreement. However, Silver-
stein said, the two congrega-
tions must regain control
over management to end the
current practice that does
not require burial in accord-
ance with traditional Jewish
Rabbi Leizer Levin, presi-
dent of the Council of Ortho-
dox Rabbis (Vaad Hara-
bonim), confirmed that the
Machpelah Cemetery Asso-
ciation, through the Oppen-

Record Settlement of Soviet Jews

Reported by Hi as Service in '73

NEW YORK—The number
of Soviet Jews who requested
United HIAS Service assist-
ance to emigrate to the
United States and other
Western countries rose sharp-
ly in 1973, reported Gaynor
I. Jacobson, executive vice
president of the worldwide
Jewish migration agency.
"Jews are accelerating
their demands to leave the
Societ Union," he said.
"Thirty-five hundred to 4,000
are leaving each month. As
the numbers going to Israel
increase, we're experiencing
a parallel increase in U. S.
"The vast majority of the
36,000 Jews who left the
USSR in 1973 went to Israel.
Of these, 1,500 were brought
to the U.S. by HIAS. This
represents a significant in-
crease over the 450 emigres
HIAS resettled in the U.S. in
1972," he added.
Many of the Russians ar-
riving here are being re-
united with stateside rela-
tives after long separations.
Their movement to the
United States has been
speeded up by an order of
former Atty. Gen. Elliot
Richardson, who, last July 31
invoked parole authority for
Russians in Rome.
Not all of HIAS-assisted
migrants from the Soviet
Union — a total of 1,658 for
1973 — came to the United
States. Nearly 160 settled in
other Western countries in-
cluding Canada and Aus-
tralia. An additional 1,100
migrants are awaiting de-
parture in Rome.
Resettlement of Jews corn-
ing to the U.S. is carried out
in cooperation with local Jew-
ish federations and Jewish
family and children's ser-
vices in 44 communities in
22 states and the District of
(In Detroit, it's the Jewish
Resettlement Service. Last
year, 50 settled in Detroit.)
Statistics for the first nine
months of 1973 show the
arrivals ranging in age from
one month to 80 years and
over, the largest number, 56
per cent, between 21 and 50.
A majority, 58 per cent,
come from the Ukrainian
SSR, which includes such
Jewish population centers as
Czernovitz, Kiev and Odessa;
23 per cent come from the
Russian S o v i.e t Federated
Socialist Republic, including
the cities of Leningrad and
Seventeen per cent of the
assisted arrivals were highly
skilled professionals. A
similar number were classi-
N fied as technicians and white-


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`election' and through self-
appointment thereby," the
plaintiffs charge.
Though requested, the de-
fendants "have not rendered
any accounting of the assets,
income and disbursements,
nor any report of the opera-
tions of said defendant Mach-
peleh Cemetery Association,
to the plaintiff congregations
or its members . . ."
But what galls the plain-
tiffs most, said Abraham
Silverstein and Meyer Levin,
presidents, respectively, of
Beth Jacob-Mogain Abraham
and Bnai Israel-Beth Yehu-
dah, is the fact that the Op-
penheim family has failed to
establish that burials at the
cemetery be performed in



collar professionals. Blue
collar workers account for 13
per cent, unskilled 10 per
cent. The remaining 35 per
cent are not in the labor

Tefilin Burial
a Chilly Rite

A representation of Judaica
permanently rests at .the
South Pole in a hole three
feet deep in snow that never
melts in the Antarctic cold
and is thus preserved for the
Roy Millenson of Bethesda,
Md., has placed there the
Phylacteries (tefilin) h i s
Parents gave him for his Bar
Mitzva at the old Adas
Israel Synagogue here nearly
40 years ago. The synagogue,
now a national momument,
is being converted by the
Jewish Historical Society
into a museum and library
in time for America's bi-
centennial as a nation.
Millenson, an observant
Jew , told the Jewish Tele-
granhic Agency of the inci-
dent upon his return from
Antarctica where he had
gone with a congressional
delegation to inspect the Na-
tional Science Foundation's
station at the South Pole.
He is a staff member of
the foundation's subcimmit-
tee of the Senate Labor and
Public Welfar'e Committee
and an aide to Sen. Jacob
K. Javits (R.-N.Y.).
The tefilin, Millenson said,
"Have become worn over the
years and my rabbi said the
proper way to dispose of
them was by burial. The
Antarctic trip came along
and I took them with me. I
said two prayers — the
Csheheheyame and the
`Shema' — and covered them
with snow. As far as I know,
mine were the first Hebrew
prayers ever said at the
South Pole." The tempera-
ture at the time was 14°
below zero.

`Light in Darkness'

The first time that Adam
saw the sun go down and an
ever-deepening gloom enfold
creation, his mind was filled
with terror. God then took
pity on him, and endowed
him with the divine intuition
to take two stones—the name
of one was Darkness and the
name of the other Shadow
of Death — and rub them
against each other, and to
discover f i r e. Thereupon
Adam exclaimed with grate-
ful joy: "Blessed be the
Creator of Light."—Talmud,
Avodah Zorah, 8b. ;

heim family, pays $5,000 a
year for a Vaad representa-
tive to "supervise ritual" at
Machpelah. This representa-
tive is at every funeral "to
stay and see that the casket
is fully covered," said Rabbi
Levin. The Vaad observer
does not participate in the

Silverstein said that if con-
trol of the cemetery were to
be returned to the two con-
gregations, "all Jews" could
be buried there, with the
families' understanding that
Orthodox burial practices
would be followed.

either the Council of Ortho-
dox Rabbis or the Jewish
Community Council.
One pr o b l e m, attorney
Rogers concedes, is in get-
ting sufficient background
data on the origins of the
cemetery, since the founding
members are deceased. He
said he hoped that those with
information germane to the
case would come forward.
The attorney for the de-
fendants, Alan Goldstein, told
the Jewish News the plain-
tiffs' brief was full of "old-
wives tales and unfounded
charges" and refused to com-
ment further.

He insists that cemetery
personnel must be Orthodox
to ensure proper adherence
to Jewish burial law. "A 14—Friday, January 18, 1974
Vaad supervisor just isn't
Silverstein said that the
plaintiffs have been working
on the case for 12 years and
that they were unsuccessful
in getting the other party to
agree to arbitration before


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