Honoring The Dead
Kevod HaMet society seeks dignity for those in unmarked graves.
Special to the Jewish News
he died at birth and no one talked about
her, but somehow Jay Korelitz of West
Bloomfield found out about his Aunt Anna.
Ninety years post-mortem, he honored her
memory with a memorial service and a gravestone
over her previously unmarked grave.
Inspired by the experience, Korelitz is now
launching Kevod HaMet (Honoring Our Deceased),
a project to erect gravestones on metro Detroit's
unmarked Jewish graves.
He hopes the project will catch on nationwide,
but it's quite an undertaking. Jonathan Dorfman,
director of Farmington Hills' Dorfman Chapel, esti-
mates that there are 3,000-4,000 Jewish unmarked
graves in the tri-county area alone.
Korelitz spoke with Dorfman initially to help
make arrangements for erecting his aunt's gravestone;
now Dorfman is helping spearhead the new organi-
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finally marks the
died as a baby
over 90 years ago.
"Everything hould be proper and dignified,"
Dorfman says. "It's the right thing to do."
The story began when Korelitz was "tooling
around the Internet," as he puts it; and he came
across the Irwin I. Cohn Michigan Jewish Cemetery
Index, a link on the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit's Web site.
According to archivist Matilda "Tillie" Brandwine,
who began the Cemetery Index Project in 1991, the
link is the most popular "hit" on the Federation site.
It was named for the late Irwin Cohn (father of
Federal Judge Avern Cohn), whose foundation sup-
plied the funding for this database of Detroit's 32
Jewish cemeteries. The index, still in process, cur-
rently contains nearly 67,000 names. Included with
each listing are usually the name of the cemetery
where the deceased is buried and the plot and section
number as well as dates of birth and death.
When Korelitz, out of curiosity, typed his last
name into the site's search engine, among his known
deceased relatives was
also listed an Anna
Jay Korelitz rests near the
Korelitz, buried in the
grave covering that was on
Turover section of
the grave of his Aunt Anna
Korelitz, who died as a baby Workmen's Circle
Cemetery in Clinton
and was placed in an
It listed the
gravesite, row and plot number, but no date.
Because "Korelitz" is a relatively uncommon
name, he felt the unknown Anna must be a relative.
That very day, he drove out to the cemetery to locate
"There it was," he says grimly. "A baby's grave
with no headstone or marker in an old section with
about 10 other unmarked baby graves."
- Eerily, although hers is not in a family plot,
Anna's grave is only about five plots away from a dif-
ferent "Tante Chana" (Aunt Anne) — Anne Korelitz,
first wife of Jay's Uncle Morris, who died in 1944,
and who would have been Anna's sister-in-law.
Jay Korelitz remembered that his father, Harry,
who died in 1984, had mentioned a sister who died
at birth, but refused to answer any questions about
her. Korelitz surmises that this must have been his
Aunt Anna, and that she died in 1913. Most likely,
because of financial circumstances, Anna's parents
saw to a proper Jewish burial for their baby, but were
unable to afford a gravestone.
Setting Things Right
"I knew what had to be done," Korelitz says. He
contacted Dorfman Chapel and told them the story.
They, in turn, contacted Chesed Shel Ernes (Hebrew