(photo credit: courtesy)
The emergency response and disaster relief organization ZAKA has successfully
filed a restraining order in the US to prevent an Israeli mother from having her
Aaron Tabachnik, a Jewish Israeli teen, recently committed
suicide while at a Florida shooting range. Because the young man did not have a
will, the disposal of his remains has been left to the discretion of his mother,
who opted for cremation and planned to scatter the ashes in Arad, where the
family is originally from.
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Upon hearing of the mother’s intentions,
Aaron’s father Moshe Tabachnik, who is divorced from the mother, flew to Florida
and contacted ZAKA founder and chairperson Yehuda Meshi-Zahav. Meshi-Zahav
worked with the family to ensure a proper Jewish burial.
prohibited by Jewish law.
ZAKA has a legal department, which Lydia
Weitzman, a spokeswoman for the organization, says deals specifically with
overseas cases like this.
“Any instance of unnatural death in Israel is
dealt with by the ZAKA organization,” says Weitzman. But ZAKA also handles cases
that, like this one, take place outside Israel, and over the organization’s
16-year existence, Weitzman says, ZAKA has become involved in cases involving
Israelis and Jews worldwide.
“We help bereaved families cut through the
bureaucratic red tape,” said Weitzman.
Now that the restraining order
against cremation has been issued, the situation has been put on hold until the
family can reach an agreement on how to lay Tabachnik’s body to
Weitzman went on to explain that ZAKA handled a similar case
earlier this month when an Israeli man was murdered in the Philippines, and his
son chose to have his body cremated. ZAKA intervened, offering to pay for
transport back to Israel so the body could be buried. The man was ultimately
returned to Israel and given a proper Jewish burial, though the son opted to pay
the travel expense himself.
ZAKA has intervened in such cases “many, many
times before,” says Weitzman. The organization works to ensure that bodies are
returned to their families for “a proper Jewish burial,” explained the
spokeswoman, though that burial need not necessarily take place in
Ultimately, says Weitzman, the goal of ZAKA is to provide closure
for families like Aaron Tabachnik’s.