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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


August 14, 2015  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

Dozens of strangers in NY gather to ensure Tampa man gets proper Jewish funeral


Thirty strangers from the Monsey, NY, area attended the funeral of Max Landsman, after his daughter posted a request on Facebook to make sure the requisite 10 people needed for a minyan would be there. Thirty strangers from the Monsey, NY, area attended the funeral of Max Landsman, after his daughter posted a request on Facebook to make sure the requisite 10 people needed for a minyan would be there. ROCKLAND COUNTY, NY – It was a Facebook post in a local Monsey, NY, group that set in motion a chain of events that ended with a Jewish war veteran receiving a proper burial in accordance with Orthodox Jewish law.

Max Landsman, a veteran of World War II, died at Weinberg Village Assisted Living Residences in Tampa on Sunday, July 12, at the age of 96.

He moved to Weinberg Village in 2011, while there, Landsman had his first aliyah, reciting the prayers for reading from the Torah during a service conducted there by Rabbi Levi Rikvin. “Even though it was his first aliyah, Max led a life instilled with Jewish values. He even spoke and understood Yiddish,” said Weinberg Village Executive Director Dan Sultan, adding he would be dearly missed by his friends and the staff there.

The late Max Landsman, wrapped in tefillin, at a service at Weinberg Village The late Max Landsman, wrapped in tefillin, at a service at Weinberg Village A former resident of Monsey (a small town about 35 miles north of New York City which includes a large enclave of Orthodox Jews) and a father of six who had 16 grandchildren and great grandchildren, Landsman was buried July 15 next to his wife Ida at the Frederick W. Loescher Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Spring Valley.

His daughter, Gloria Levine, who lives in Florida and was unable to attend the funeral for health reasons, was concerned that there would not be a minyan at the cemetery and posted a request on Facebook asking for help assembling the requisite 10 people. Levine’s post was shared Tuesday night, July 14, by a cousin in Brooklyn to the Monsey Area Neighborhood Facebook group where word of the funeral began to spread.

After hearing of the planned levaya (funeral), Wesley Hills resident Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz began working the phones trying to arrange both a minyan and a full Jewish burial in an Orthodox Jewish cemetery.

“I knew it was a non-Jewish cemetery,” Rabbi Gewirtz told VIN News. “I spoke to Chesed Shel Emes, the Hebrew Free Burial Society, the heads of the chevra kadisha of both Rockland and Monsey/New Square. Things were difficult because Mr. Landsman’s daughter was having medical treatments…when all this was going on and I went back and forth with the cousin in Brooklyn,” Rabbi Gewirtz related. “We were told that nothing was going to change about the burial location, to please just try and get a minyan,”

Details about the Landsman levaya were sent out to Monsey shuls through email and social media, asking anyone in the area at the designated time to please attend the funeral. Approximately 30 men turned out to pay their respects to Landsman, who also received a full military funeral.

“You had to see what this looked like,” said Rabbi Gewirtz. “This is a small cemetery, but there was a line of cars around the entire perimeter. People came on their lunch hour. There were men in suits, bekeshes and jeans, young and old. People who just cared kept on coming.”

Rockland County legislator Aron Wieder was one of those who came for the levaya.

“I got the message maybe 5 or 10 minutes before the funeral,” said Wieder. “Someone who came at the same time as me saw that there was a minyan and he left. I had a similar urge but I saw that he was a veteran and my in laws are Holocaust survivors. I said to myself I have to stay there to be a part of this beautiful mitzvah. It pulled me in and the half hour or 45 minutes I spent there, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.”

Rabbi Daniel Pernack of the Beth Am Temple in Pearl River was the only scheduled speaker for the funeral but the family also gave Rabbi Gewirtz permission to deliver a eulogy.

Cemetery workers reluctantly agreed to allow two members of Monsey’s Jewish community to lower the niftar into the ground. Both family members and those who came from Monsey covered the aron with dirt as required by halacha.

“Mr. Landsman’s daughter was watching the funeral on FaceTime and at one point I stopped with a shovel full of dirt and said to her, ‘Gloria, this is Jonathan. I am putting this one on for you,’” said Rabbi Gewirtz. “She said ‘Thank you’ and she clearly saw everything that was going on here.”

Rabbi Gewirtz spoke to Rabbi Ephraim Pessin (head of the chevra kadisha of Rockland County) to confirm that the burial had proceeded according to Orthodox Jewish tradition. “If he had a proper tahara, which he did, and he was buried in a pine box, which he was, and if he was lowered into the ground by people who are Shomer Shabbos, which he was. and if he was covered with dirt by Jews, then it is a proper kever yisroel,” said Rabbi Gewirtz.

Landsman’s granddaughters, Kim Valdez and Lauren Sherman, were both visibly touched by the Monsey community’s response to the request for a minyan.

“I have no words,” said Valdez. “I was completely blown away. It was so heartwarming.”

“My heart was so full when I saw what was happening,” said Sherman. “We were so touched by everyone’s generosity and the outpouring of time. It was such a mitzvah to do this and we recognize that. We were overwhelmed and amazed that a community came together like that for a total stranger.”

Both cousins agreed that their grandfather would have been touched by today’s events.

“My zayda would have been so humbled,” said Valdez. “He would have been just nodding his head and smiling to see what happened here today.”

Jewish Press staff contributed to this report.

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