|Rabbi Wilfond’s Message – November 3, 2023|
In Bedford Hills near the intersection of Harris Road and Babbitt Road there is small cemetery that often goes unnoticed. Near the entrance to the cemetery there is a six-foot monument with a large Jewish Star marking the graves of the Jewish dead. Nearby there is section for Muslim graves, and a much larger section for Christian graves. This cemetery serves an unnoticed and frequently ignored population. Buried here are Muslim, Jewish and Christian women, men and babies who died in prison, and who either had no family or their families could not afford the expense of a burial.
On a tiny child-size grave stone with a Magen David is written “Baby Sharon Spect, 12.14.1931.”
The cemetery is located below the Taconic Correctional Facility. Yesterday morning in chilly 32-degree weather, with frost on the ground, I stood with about 25 clergy leaders from Bedford and Katonah in an interfaith Service marking “All Souls Day,” honoring the human beings who died in prison, including the babies of incarcerated mothers.
There is a Yiddish saying “Only the forgotten are dead.” Together we honored the lives and mourned the deaths of God’s children interred here who may have died alone but are not forgotten. The service was organized by the Interfaith Prison Partnership. Two weeks ago, Reverend Elizabeth Friend-Ennis and Sharon Griest Ballen of Katonah addressed our congregation at a Friday night service about importance of interfaith partnership in our community. They came also to tell us, the Jewish community, of their support for our local Jewish community during this time of war in Israel and the awful spike in anti-Semitism.
Tonight, at our Friday night Shabbat service, we will recognize one of our congregation’s teens, Hadley Courtenay, who will speak about her recent trip to Israel. Also, Alex Silver who grew up in the congregation and then served in the IDF as a Loner Soldier, who will make a brief presentation about how we can help Israel. We can make a difference.
Yesterday, standing in a cemetery by a prison, made me think of the Jews now captive in the hands of Hamas. We pray they will come home alive. By gathering together on Shabbat, we strengthen each other as a community. By listening to the younger voices of our congregation we receive inspiration that we can grow hope and make a positive difference in our world.
Rabbi David Wilfond