Funeral director David Techner bristles when he hears that unclaimed bodies – at one point numbering so many that the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office had to find auxiliary storage in trailers – were abandoned because they were unloved.
“I think that’s a little bit of a stretch,” Techner told WJBK, Channel 2, as he outlined a plan by the Jewish Fund to provide burials for 200 people whose bodies were not claimed from the morgue.
Often, it comes down to deciding between buying groceries to feed a family or claiming the body, which can cost $1,000 for a simple cremation or up to $5,000 for a burial, he said.
“When you have to decide between “feeding your children or claiming a body at the morgue, you feed your children,” Techner, a funeral director at Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield, told the TV station. “If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter if it’s … $50.”
That chapel and funeral homes across Michigan are working with The Jewish Fund give a proper burial to 200 of those individuals in caskets in individual marked graves in local cemeteries over the next couple of months. The estimated cost is $150,000.
Before that happens, a community memorial service will be held to honor the deceased. A date for the memorial service hasn’t been set. The Jewish Fund, Ira Kaufman Chapel and other funeral homes are contacting family members asking if they’d like to be involved. Burials wlll be scheduled to meet families’ schedules.
The Jewish Fund is a mostly quiet nonprofit group that uses proceeds from the sale of Sinai Hospital to the Detroit Medical Center in 1997. The former hospital’s goal – and the charity’s current goal – is to help some of society’s most vulnerable.
The Jewish Fund became involved after board member Mark Davidoff heard a WJBK story about the unclaimed bodies. Davidoff was “horrified,” Techner said.
Techner pointed out that the bodies shouldn’t have been allowed to accumulate in the first place.
“What I would ask of the general public is to demand more of government,” he said. “There is a mans in place, but no money to do it. How did this get so bad? We need to demand more from the people totally responsible for letting this happen.”