Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New York Kohanim, Do You Walk in Washington Square Park?

If so, you may want to avoid it in the future. It turns out that the park used to be used as a Potter's field in the early 19th century. Lest you think that the bones would all be gone by now, it appears that they recently found bones there and during a previous recent excavation as well.

Of course, the idea of long-forgotten cemeteries is not new. The African Burial Grounds in downtown Manhattan were only rediscovered in 1991 after having been lost for over a century. I recently saw a monument in a children's playground/park in Greenwich Village saying that two fallen fireman were buried there in the 1840s. As it turns out, the monument had been moved from the actual cemetery years ago.

Considering the city's diverse, long and sometimes obscure history, how do today's Kohanim keep track of where they can and cannot go? I assume it's probably OK to go somewhere until a cemetery is found, but once it's found, do they keep a list of such places?

The Wolf

Disclaimer: Of course, this is not a p'sak. I am not a posek. Make sure you discuss matters with a competent rav before following any course of action.


Anonymous said...

If there are no Jews in the cemetery, or we can assume so, then there should be no problem. Ohel HaMeis which Kohanim are concerned for is a problem with Jewish dead.

In my town, a large non-Jewish cemetery was always assumed to be not a problem. But then someone realized non-religious Jews are being buried there also and then it became such a problem that Kohanim can't even walk near the trees overhanging the cemetery.

BrooklynWolf said...

Ohel HaMeis which Kohanim are concerned for is a problem with Jewish dead.

I had often thought that as well. However, I was also informed that the matter is actually a Machlokes in the Gemara and that the SA rules that a kohen should be machmir on this.

NB: I have not had the opportunity to look at the SA inside on this matter. I could be completely wrong.

The Wolf

MYG said...