NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) recently organized a meeting of experts to discuss cemetery issues that are impacting his constituents. The team included Richard Fishman, former Director of the New York State Division of Cemeteries—a top regulator of New York state’s not-for-profit cemeteries. Assemblyman Hikind was also joined by Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, Founding Director of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha; Chaim Reichberg, an expert in cemetery issues; Tuli Reiner and Ushi Schlesinger, both of Chesed Shel Emes; and Chesky Klein, an aide to Hikind who also volunteers with Chesed Shel Emes.
“I was initially approached by Rabbi Zohn regarding issues at Cypress Hills Cemetery,” said Assemblyman Hikind. “I said as long as we’re discussing Cypress Hills, let’s put the key players together and discuss all related issues. The result was an excellent meeting that I believe will result in some substantial positive changes, including making Cypress Hills more attractive.”
Located at 833 Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn, Cypress Hills Cemetery was first developed in 1848, the year of the Gold Stampede to California. The cemetery was chartered by the State as a non-profit, non-sectarian, membership corporation. In the 1800s, most cemeteries were situated in churchyards and flat land devoid of picturesque landscape, but the founders of Cypress Hills were envisioning the cemetery of tomorrow. They searched for a site where richly wooded hills would enable them to attain the seclusion, privacy and pensive tranquility of the ideal “rural” cemetery. The non-denominational cemetery spans 225 acres and features two three-story mausoleums.
The presence of Jewish and non-Jewish sections at the non-denominational Cypress Hills creates certain challenges that Hikind said the group is working to address. Hikind also praised the staff of Cypress Hills for working with the rabbis and his office towards everyone’s best interests.