Started in 1927, Beth Israel, also known as Woodbridge Memorial Gardens, sits upon American historical ground. George Washington stayed in Woodbridge on his ceremonial visit to New York City (then the capital of the United States) to assume the office of president back in 1789. Plants brought from Israel and dedicated there by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1957.
Among the outstanding features of the park is a prominent white stone monument showing the Ten Commandments flanked by two majestic lions, which is a memorial to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The inscription on the base of the monument reads: “In memory of the 6,000,000 martyred Jews of Europe from whose ashes Israel rose anew.”
The main office building housing the administration, sales, and clerical staff was originally a farmhouse dating back to 1768. The original building has been expanded and modernized around the existing original structure.
Isidore Shipper, z”l (1894-1980), arrived in the United States in 1924 and served as the first director of the then-family owned cemetery. It was incorporated in 1927. Isidore Shipper also served as president of the Belle Harbor Jewish Center and as treasurer of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin. The family continues to direct the management of the cemetery.
The Forward in a recent article noted that the cemetery was sold in 1995 to Loewen, a public corporation based in Canada, which went bankrupt in 1999. The StoneMor corporation, based in Levittown, Pennsylvania, acquired the Woodbridge cemetery. StoneMor owns 253 cemeteries and 69 funeral homes across the United States.
The Forward article highlighted the unusual structure of the cemetery itself, being not-for-profit but having hired a for-profit management company to administer it.
On Tuesday, December 25, Eliyahu Heller will marry Esther Bracha Koenig, youngest child of Rabbi Yehuda Leibish Koenig, Kobasdorfer Rav and author of B’orei Yehuda. The chassan is the son of Rabbi Eliezer Lipa Heller of Melbourne, Australia; descendant of Rabbi Yitzchok Heller zt”l, chief rabbi of Tzefas; son of Rabbi Shmuel Heller zt”l, chief rabbi of Tsefas; direct descendant of Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller zt”l, revered author of Tosfos Yom Tov. The chassan is also a descendant of Rabbi Mordechai Bennet zt”l and of the Baal Shem Tov.
Rabbi Leibish Koenig, the father of the kallah, serves as Kobasdorfer Rav and leads Beis Medrash Chukei Chaim on 20th Avenue in Boro Park. Kobarsdorf, until the dissolution of the Austro Hungarian monarchy, was in Hungary. Today, it is in Austria. The last Kobasdofer Rav there was Rabbi Shimon Goldberger zt”l Hy”d (d. 1944), uncle of the successor.
The kallah is the granddaughter of Rabbi Chaim Yeshaye Koenig, Yoka Rav and author of Chukei Chaim, one on a long line of rabbis descending from Rabbi Meir Asch, zt”l (1670-1744), Eizenstadter Rav and author of Pannim Ma’eros. The Kobasdofer Rav is one of the founding Torah lecturers of Irgun Shiurei Torah, having begun the effort by giving shiurim every Monday through Friday during the Irgun’s embryonic first four years.
The Kobasdorfer Rav is a leading member of the Igud Horabbonim and often addresses its Rosh Chodesh Conferences, where challenges and questions of halacha are deliberated. The Kobasdorfer Rav also heads the Kobasdorfer Kollel which is conducted in Beis Medrash Chukei Chaim.