By Kaitlin Carney
MONTICELLO Lindsay Kesten has a wish: she would like her grandfather Seymour’s final resting place to be maintained with the dignity he deserves.
Seymour is buried at the Landfield Avenue Synagogue cemetery in Monticello, and Lindsay recently visited there in honor of the elder Kesten’s birthday.
“When I got there, my heart broke. It was hard to find headstones and graves,” Kesten relayed. The cemetery, a final resting place for many distinguished members of Monticello’s Jewish community, had become overgrown.
Lindsay, though small in stature, returned to the cemetery with her weedwhacker and made a few passes at the tall grass.
“I think people get concerned about other things and these little cemeteries are forgotten about,” Kesten said. “It is by no means an attack on the synagogue, but more of an effort to ensure that our loved ones’ final resting place is kept in a dignified manner. It’s morbid, but I know that one day my father will be buried there. I know that my 80-year-old grandmother sends money for perpetual care. A perfect outcome of my concern would be for the cemetery to be mowed and maintained.”
Kesten reports that concern has been growing amongst family members of those buried there, and that there are many stories circulating as to why maintenance is lacking. She feels that the small synagogue may be struggling, like many others during these challenging economic times, and understands that many members have taken to doing the upkeep and maintenance of their loved ones’ gravesites on their own. People have taken pictures and posted them to social media outlets like Facebook to encourage action. To that end, Kesten indicates that the synagogue has made some inroads, moving fences and headstones to make it easier to mow.
Rabbi Ben Zion Chanowitz is the co-director of the synagogue and realizes that there may have been some trouble early this season.
“In a nutshell, we lost our lawn service at the last minute right before the spring. We scrambled to find other help, with many companies coming in at four times our previous contract. We did not do a perfect job,” the rabbi said. “but we now have a service in place and all three areas of the synagogue’s cemetery will be done regularly.”
Rabbi Chanowitz reassured, “We respect those who have passed on… we are a family-based community. We held a meeting of the congregation and it was very beautiful, the number of people who volunteered to help out.”
He encourages any members of the congregation or community with concerns about the cemeteries to reach out to him at 794-8470.
Lindsay Kesten hopes that her concern will encourage the continuous upkeep of the cemetery and that future visits will be to a well-maintained cemetery.
Rabbi Chanowitz feels that the synagogue’s dedication and new maintenance service will restore the cemetery to its original pristine condition and convey the honor and dignity that everyone buried there deserves.