THE JEWISH NEWS
21 AV 5754/JULY 29, 1994
Detroiters with the same
names often have hilarious
stories to tell. One local man
almost did not go on a first
date with his wife because
someone with the same name
was getting married. She
thought he was playing loose.
A Hine) student thought his
teacher called his house to talk
to his parents about his bad
grades. The caller was not his
teacher, but a woman with the
same name. These are the
people who receive unfamiliar
letters and phone calls and are
used to explaining, "You have
the right name but the wrong
JENNIFER FINER STAFF WRITER
The Last Guys To Let You Down
Funeral home directors do all they can to meet the many — often strange —
requests of grieving families.
ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM ASSOCIATE EDITOR
t was around 3 a.m. one
Saturday, and 6 feet un-
derground in a wooden cof-
fin at a Detroit cemetery a
cellular telephone was ring-
Moments later, the caller
heard a click and then this
message: "Your call cannot
be completed because the
other party is out of range
and not turned on." (Only
an electronic operator could have un-
knowingly uttered such a wonderful eu-
phemism for "dead.")
The caller was the late man's wife. And g
it wasn't that she actually expected her V_
husband to answer his phone, which she :2,
had asked Funeral Director David
Techner if she could put in the coffin, just
for old time's sake, because her ailing hus-
band was never without it. She simply
couldn't resist trying on one lonely
Life, the Scripture says, is a passing
shadow. And when one dies: "Neither sil-
ver nor gold nor jewels accompany him —
only Torah and his good deeds" (Sayings
of the Fathers).
Try telling that to grieving families.
Mr. Techner had a client who asked
that her family member be buried in his
Alan Dorfman, of Alan Dorfman
Funeral Direction, has heard, "Could you
bury him with a deck of cards?" and "He
loved to smoke. I'd like to send him with
a pack of cigarettes."
Hebrew Memorial's Rabbi Boruch
Levin and Robert Bodzin recall families
asking for dearly departed loved ones to
have available such useful items as
walkie-talkies and photos of their fa-
vorite boats and vans.
Halachah, Jewish law, makes no
bones about it: Death should be demo-
cratic. Corpses are buried in plain
shrouds so that all appear equal.
Jewelry and fancy clothes are not al-
But at the same time Halachah
does not expressly forbid a corpse
being buried with, say, a cellular
phone. And Jews are obligated to be
kind and extend themselves at a time
For funeral directors, this has come
to mean an occasional casket with a
pack of cigarettes or answering a ques-
tion that seems to come right out of the
"We got a call from someone whose
family member had died. He wanted to
know, 'Should I bring in the body or
will you come pick him up?' " Hebrew
Memorial Chapel Funeral Director Robert
Bodzin says. "Of course, we always pick
up the body. Can you imagine, a family
driving along with the corpse in the front
"We also get calls, 'The funeral is at 2?
Is that in the afternoon or night?'
"And one time somebody asked, Do you
DOWN page 28
B'nai David factions.
ALAN HITSKY ASSOCIATE EDITOR
technicality and one vote have
blocked the proposed merger of
Congregation B'nai David with
Congregation B'nai Moshe and re-
exposed a deep division within the B'nai
B'nai David board members voted 15-
11, with four abstentions, last week in fa-
vor of the merger plan with B'nai Moshe.
But with a quorum of 30 present at the
meeting, the proposal needed 16 votes to
be presented at a later meeting to the syn-
agogue's general membership for ap-
The congregation was advised that un-
der Michigan law the proposed merger
had to be approved by the board before it
could be submitted to the membership.
Proponents of the merger, led by B'nai
David immediate past president
Lawrence Traison, said the action leaves
the general membership "embarrassed,
disenfranchised and angry that 11 peo-
ple decided that the whole membership
does not know what it wants."
President Philip Bolton, who voted with
the minority, said the action last week
reaffirms those B'nai David members who
still feel it's possible for the congregation
to build its own sanctuary.
B'nai David sold its Southfield Road fa-
cility to the City of Southfield four years
ago for $1.6 million. Under the terms of
the sale, B'nai David had three years plus
MERGE page 8
A Holocaust survivor
helps the terminally ill.
A Detroiter tours
with Second City.
Contents on page 3