Earlier this year, a team of European Rabbis who are experts in the Jewish law or Jewish religious leaders held a conference in Riga the capital of Latvia. The main reason for holding this conference was to discuss how they can strengthen the Jewish community and their beliefs. One sensitive and burning issue that was brought up during their meeting was the vandalization of their tombs in Paris and the removal of the remains in them by the city’s council.
Natan Kahan, who is a Rabbi and top editor of the French haredi magazine has been following up on the issue for several years. He explained to the other Rabbis the complex nature of the matter in hand. It came to their understanding that one can purchase a plot for burial only for a limited period as per the municipal laws of Paris. The time usually varies from 5 to 100 years. Once they have elapsed, the city authorities are allowed to reclaim the land by destroying the graves and removing the remains in them.
The only option one has to avoid all this is to repurchase the land once again for other extra years. Rabbi Kahan also added that the municipal council has the authority to reclaim abandoned graves or those that have not been visited for over three years according to the French Law. Jews are also forbidden by the law from setting up Jewish only cemeteries but are allowed to establish quarters of their own in various public cemeteries.
It is estimated that the French authorities have been reclaiming graves since the early 50’s and the city’s warehouse has over 10,000 skeletons which the Rabbis claim a more significant portion of them are Jewish corpses. Haim Korsia who is the Chief Rabbi in France and the deputy president of the conference together with the deputy, Moshe Levin who is a Rabbi and a leader in the conference are very keen on this sensitive and complex matter. Rabbi Korsia said that he held a meeting with Paris mayor Ann Hidalgo and agreed that those who lost their lives before the Second World War should not be exhumed from their graves.
He explained that those who died during that period had no living relatives since their descendants were killed during the Holocaust. Their names were also destroyed during the process. ‘Most Jews in the world insist on coming up with legal or constitutional solutions for the burial of Jews in the French capital,’ this is what Pinhas Goldschmidt who is the president of European Rabbis conference said. He also added that families should be permitted to rebury the remains of their exhumed loved ones in their graves in France or send them back to Israel for burial.
The council of Rabbis insisted that the authorities in Paris should adhere to their demands. They, later on, formed a committee comprising of three Rabbis who will talk to the Paris Rabbi. They will inform the authorities in Paris to present a list of those who stand the risk of being exhumed and those transferred from their graves to the city’s warehouses. They also urge descendants of those who are deceased to visit their graves and ensure they are well maintained. They should also keep contact with the municipal authorities.