30 Kind Strangers Attend Funeral for New York Woman Without a Family
In an act of kindness, close to 30 strangers attended a funeral last week for a woman they’ve never met.
On Aug. 17, community members gathered for the burial of Francine Stein at Temple Israel Memorial Park in Blauvelt, New York, after learning the woman had no family or friends that would be in attendance.
“I was amazed at the turnout and deeply touched,” said Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach, who officiated the event. “It was the middle of the day many people came from work and took the time to honor a life departing for this world. I was moved and speechless by the response.”
Rabbi Weinbach, of the Congregation Shaarey Israel in Montebello, told ABC News that he learned of Francine Stein’s story through the director of the Hellman Memorial Funeral Chapel. The director asked the rabbi if he would be interested in facilitating a burial for the woman. Stein had recently died. At the time, the only information known about the 83-year-old was her name and her age, Rabbi Weinbach said.
“I was struggling with how to lend dignity to a service where the only people who were going to be there were professionals who had no connection to the deceased and I knew nothing about her,” he said. “I discussed it with my daughter and she suggested that maybe she could get some of her friends out to the cemetery so this woman would not be completely alone at her funeral.”
Rabbi Weinbach’s daugher, Ora Weinbach, put out a call on her Facebook page for people to be present for Stein’s funeral.
Marquis Home Care, a local business in Spring Valley, offered free transportation to the event.
“I just thought it was so tragic that this woman would possibly be buried without anyone there,” said Bassie Friedman, Maquis’ director of business development. “The outpouring of positivity, it was amazing. It was very life-changing. Anyone driving by would’ve thought that we were all gathered there for our aunt, sister or grandmother’s funeral. There were tears. This woman didn’t seem to have anyone and we felt a responsibility to get the word out there so she had a proper burial.”
Stein’s pallbearers carried her casket, lowered it and filled her grave, as part of an Orthodox Jewish tradition, Friedman said.
In the days following Stein’s funeral, Rabbi Weinbach learned she had been a teacher at the Julliard School and a 10-year resident of Munsey Park Home Care Services for Seniors before being transferred elsewhere.
Workers and residents at Munsey Park have since learned of Stein’s death, and Rabbi Weinbach hopes to officiate a special service at the facility so people who knew her can pay their respects.