The Shmooze

Jewish Body Cleanup Crews' Bitter Fight

By Abigail Jones

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Two groups dueled it out on Kings Highway and West Sixth Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, slinging insults (“I’m going to cut your balls off”) and fighting over rights to a dead motorcyclist’s body. Police intervened and tempers eventually cooled, though only momentarily.

This is not the plot to a new action movie. Last April, Chesed Shel Emes and Misaskim — both nonprofit organizations that collect body parts and fluids for burial according to Jewish law — rushed to the scene of a late-night fight in Flatbush and, in a rare moment of collaboration, worked together to gather remains.

Yet the rift between Chesed Shel Emes and Misaskim is deep and heated. As the New York Post recently reported, Yanky Meyer, the leader of Misaskim, “was once recorded berating a Chesed Shel Emes volunteer who had helped transfer a body from a car crash to a New Jersey funeral home. ‘Once you drop this deceased off in Lakewood, you’d better disappear,’ he can be heard saying, ‘because if I find out you’re in the procession, I’m telling you right now — I’m going to cut your balls off.’”

And at an August 19 shooting in Flatbush, both crews rushed to the scene. “We got there first,” a Chesed Shel Emes volunteer told the Post.

Founded by Rabbi Mendel Rosenberg 25 years ago, Chesed Shel Emes boasts over 450 members (distinguishable by their green vest uniforms) and do around 300 burials and cleanups each year. Meanwhile, Misaskim, dubbed a “scrappy start-up” by the Post, monitors 911 calls and can be identified by members’ blue vests.

There’s no end in sight for this fight over blood, flesh and bone. Even Assemblyman Dov Hikind can’t help the clashing groups see eye to eye. “It’s a freaking shame,” he told the Post.


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