Wheelchair-using victim of Brooklyn crash died alone, with no next of kin
By Anna Gratzer and Colin Mixson New York Daily News
A charity organization has stepped in to arrange the burial of a 68-year-old woman who was crushed to death crossing a Brooklyn roadway in her wheelchair after the group found she has no next of kin.
“To bury someone who is a loner is one of the most important commandments that we have,” said Rabbi Solomon Feldman, who works at Chesed Shel Emes, a charity organization that provides free Jewish burials.
Joyce Greenberg, 68, was struck and killed in Kensington while crossing Webster Ave. by the 73-year-old driver of a Lexus SUV heading south on McDonald Ave. Sunday, according to police.
Greenberg became pinned beneath the vehicle and suffered severe trauma, cops said.
Paramedics rushed her to Maimonides Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, according to law enforcement.
Greenberg lived on the fifth floor of a Lawrence Ave. independent living facility called the Joseph Belsky House, about two blocks away from where she was killed.
Workers there remembered Greenberg as a solitary figure who kept her distance from other tenants and rarely joined in group activities.
“She would just be sitting by herself [outside], relaxing in the fresh breeze,” said a health aide who asked to not be identified. “She’d go to the supermarket by herself. She was very independent.”
Feldman’s organization received an anonymous phone call asking if the Hasidic charity-based organization could handle her burial, claiming she had no family or close friends to see her laid to rest, the rabbi said.
“Someone who knew her, who knew she’s Jewish, knows she has no relatives reached out,” Feldman said Monday. “We are an Orthodox Jewish-based group, but we care and try to make sure every Jew gets a Jewish burial.”
When New Yorkers die without anyone to arrange their funeral, the city takes their bodies to Potters Field on Hart Island, where they may be interred in trenches filled with dozens of other caskets, Feldman noted.
Chesed Shel Emes buries clients in private plots at a cemetery in Woodridge, Sullivan County, where the body is interred in a shroud and the proper rights are observed, Feldman said.
“Jewish tradition places a significant emphasis on the sanctity of the human body,” said Feldman. “By following specific rituals and customs, it is believed that the deceased is honored in death, and every Jew deserves that honor.”
Because Jewish custom requires that as much of the body be buried as possible, Chesed Shel Emes volunteers went so far as to clean Greenberg’s blood off the Lexus that killed her, so that it can eventually be entombed with the rest of her remains.
Before Feldman’s group can claim the body, the city medical examiner needs to confirm she has no next of kin, before getting final approval from the Manhattan public administrator.
The driver of the Lexus remained at the scene following the crash. No arrests have been made, cops said.