Hundreds Attend Meis Mitzvah Funeral for Murder Victim Milton Storch
By Matis Glenn - Hamodia
Over 250 members of the Orthodox Jewish community of Far Rockaway and the 5 Towns attended the Wednesday afternoon levayah of Milton Storch, 59, who was tragically murdered on Shabbos.
Mr. Storch was sitting outside of a grocery store in his walker on Beach 20 Street in Far Rockaway, when Kiani Phoenix, 26, allegedly sped on to the sidewalk and ran him over with her car. She was aiming for a woman with whom she was quarreling, but instead hit Mr. Storch, who was disabled and unable to run away from the oncoming vehicle. Phoenix has been arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including murder. The incident in all its horror was caught on video.
When news broke of the tragedy, no family members came forward to take care of the niftar. It was not known at first that he was Jewish, but Shomrim volunteers and askanim in the JCC of Rockaway Peninsula and Achiezer began investigating the possibility based on Mr. Storch’s last name, Sholem Klein, a coordinator for RNSP Shomrim told Hamodia. He, along with the other askanim, spoke with neighbors, and contacted people with the same last name as him.
They discovered that he has a twin sister who lives in Florida, who was unaware that her brother had died.
“The first two days, we didn’t get anywhere,” Klein said. “The third day, I got a hold of his brother-in-law.”
Klein spoke with the sister, who confirmed that Mr. Storch was, in fact, Jewish, and that she wanted an Orthodox funeral for her brother. Klein told Hamodia that the Hospital where Mr. Storch was taken to had originally believed the niftar to be Christian, and he was set to be buried in a city cemetery.
Klein explained to the sister that the Jewish community works together to cover the cost of such expenses, allaying her concerns that she was not able to afford the services.
In what was the definition of a meis mitzvah, askanim from Shomrim and Chesed Shel Emes sprung into action, arranging a levayah and kevurah according to halachah. The levayah, held at the White Shul on Empire Avenue in Far Rockaway, was attended by over 250 people from the community who were moved by the tragedy and wished to give the niftar, who had not been known in Jewish circles, proper kavod acharon. The kevurah was held Wednesday evening at Chesed Shel Emes cemetery in Woodridge, New York.
Klein says that the levayah and kevurah were unusual in scope.
“Normally at a levayah, you have family, you have friends,” Klein said. “This man didn’t have any family or friends, but everybody came out for a meis mitzvah…it was a very, very respectful levayah. He had over 40 people at his kevurah upstate, with kaddish, keil maleh, Tehillim…he must have had special z’chusim, because he received a tremendous kavod.”
Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Rav of the shul, gave a hesped, asking forgiveness on behalf of the community from the niftar, having not had the opportunity to be mekarev him.
“We’re here to give you kavod hameis, kovod acharon, and to bestow honor to you,” Rabbi Feiner said. “To not only beg your forgiveness, but to ask you as your lofty soul ascends to the Heavens on high, to plead on our behalf, your family, the Jewish people, your community…that are showing you now, Milton Phillip, we love you.”