Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Some names have been changed to protect people’s privacy.



Sometimes things that happen in life seem unbelievable and yet they happen to you. As you pass through this dreamlike challenge not only does your world get shaken upside down, but it effects so many others and touches them too.

It started out as an ordinary day. We were waiting to hear the news that my dear mother-in-law Rachel was going to be released from the hospital after a scary bout with a lung condition that had been repeatedly causing her shortness of breath and one of her vocal cords to freeze. Although it was difficult for her to talk and there was a tumor in her lung so far, all her biopsies had come back negative, and this one was expected to be the same.

After we didn’t hear back from my mother-in-law we tried many times to call her husband to see how things were. Finally he answered the phone, but because he had a form of Alzeimer’s we couldn’t really get clear information.

“David, it’s Fayge. How is mom?”

“She’s not coming home. She is dying. Karen told me.”

“Who is Karen?”

“Our friend, the lady and her husband who help us. I have no memory. I forget everything, and I fall down a lot.”

“Can you give me Karen’s number?”

“Yes, its here on the refrigerator.”

I called Karen who told me everything was okay and Rachel would be home in a couple of days. I asked her to please keep me posted and that we would call back in two days. She never did. We again kept trying to call David and finally after many tries, he answered and told my husband Rachel had just passed away.

My husband couldn’t believe it was true. How could no one have called us and told us this devastating news. I then started calling the assisted living facility where she had been living but they said they couldn’t tell me anything. Karen had to tell us everything as she was the health advocate for Rachel. We had no idea why she was the one in charge and I refused to give up trying to verify what had happened to my dear mother-in-law. I called the hospital, found out she was in a hospice but they refused to tell us the name of where she had been. The calls went on as we searched to find the correct place that she had passed away in. Finally, we found it but they wouldn’t talk to us either. We finally figured out that she might have been taken to a funeral home/crematorium where my brother-in-law had sadly been cremated a few years before. We were unable to do anything to stop this from happening. My mother-in-law had been influenced by Karen and she was the next of kin. She had refused to give him a Jewish burial. They confirmed she was there and as per her husband and this Karen person she was waiting to be cremated.

We were shocked and heartbroken, but we had no time to waste. We immediately called our Rav who told us to contact Zaka to see if we had a way to stop the cremation.

The story becomes even more convoluted as Karen was refusing to answer my calls. I tried numerous times. Finally, after a couple of hours she answered and claimed she thought David had called us to share the news with us. How she expected him to do this was beyond my understanding. He was totally confused and broken. When I confronted her about Rachel’s cremation, she claimed she was not in charge, she was only doing what was her last wish.

After hanging up with her we called the funeral home back and told them my husband as her son was against cremation and we were getting an injunction to stop it. They immediately agreed to put things on hold, baruch Hashem, and with the help of Zaka’s recommendation we found a fantastic lawyer who immediately filed an injunction and took our case pro bono.

Now things began to really get complicated. We tried to reach David, our step-father-in-law, to talk to him to discuss with him the kevurah. We couldn’t reach him.

Deeply concerned, I then called the assisted living facility to see if he was okay. They said he looked fine and was being moved out. Karen was taking him to live with her. We were worried and asked if there was anything that could be done to stop this. They explained since David was officially “self-reliant” there was nothing anyone could do. We asked them to please have him contact us the next time they saw him.

We then called our lawyer who was terribly upset by this and suggested my husband come immediately and file a complaint with the police. He also told us to call Agudas Yisrael to have them open a file, which they did. The complaint was brushed aside by the police, and we were told David was fine. It’s hard to explain how frightened and upset we were.

We immediately set out to arrange tickets for my husband and one of our dedicated sons-in-law who offered to go with him, to help as my husband has no driver’s license. We now had another obstacle – my husband’s American and Israeli passports were expired, and we needed help to get them.

We reached out to an amazing chesed organization who was able to get my husband everything he needed in a matter of days. My husband and son-in-law flew off to Florida to find David and set the court cases in motion. The priority was to get Rachel a proper burial, second we had found out that Karen was trying to steal our inheritance. Three days before Rachel had passed away Karen had manipulated her into signing a new will leaving us penniless.

As they rushed off I began to try to raise money to cover the cost of the trip and for basic necessities such as rent and food.

Things do not go so smoothly. My husband and son-in-law arrived, and after getting settled went to the police to refile their complaint and were rebuffed.

“We already looked into this. David is fine.”

“But they won’t even let us talk to him on the phone.”

“Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to you!!”

They tried to explain he had Alzheimer’s and they implored upon them to try one more time to check that David was safe. Reluctantly they finally agreed and told them to return in two days.

When they returned the police denied any reason to investigate further. Not knowing what else to do my husband and son-in-law set out to find David on their own. By a stroke of luck, a kind policeman told then that Karen had moved to a new address and “inadvertently” let the new location slip.

They raced off to try to see if they could find David and check on him. The condominium complex had high security but somehow, they found someone to let them in. Karen wouldn’t answer her door and had the management call the police. When they tried to explain that they just wanted to see if David was ok, the police removed them from the grounds and threatened to arrest them if they returned.

Dejectedly they returned to where they were staying and tried to form a new game plan. The lawyer was still trying to get our case on the docket, but the court was unable to add us for at least another few weeks. After discussing all the possibilities with our Rav and lawyer they decided to return home to Jerusalem where the case would be conducted on Zoom.

It was heart-wrenching to know that Rachel would be sitting on ice until we could get permission to bury her. We couldn’t even begin to imagine what this would do to her neshama. We reached out to tehillim groups all over the world and hundreds helped daven for us to get a keuvrah as soon as possible.

Finally, after about a month the court case was scheduled. It was a nerve-wracking experience for us but Hashem was with us all the way. The case was supposed to be one and a half hours but due to its complex nature the judge let it continue as long as needed. We proved Karen seemed to be manipulating David and that he was unable to make competent decisions, but the judge wanted even more proof. Six hours into the trial a break was called. When it reconvened, our lawyer requested to recall our son-in-law to the stand.

“Your honor due to some evidence I move the lawyer of David and Karen be removed from the case immediately. This witness has just brought to my attention evidence that proves beyond a doubt their lawyer Mr. Smith has used illegal evidence to build a case.”

“What kind of evidence? Please elaborate.”

Mr. Smith tried vehemently to object but the judge told him he was overruled. Our lawyer continued the questioning, and it came to light when we were searching for a lawyer. Mr. Smith had been contacted by him and he had knowledge of our whole case.

The judge was livid, never in her whole history of being a judge had she heard of such a thing. She dismissed Mr. Smith immediately on grounds of illegal behavior and told him that he was most likely to lose his law license.

The trial halted to a complete stop. Now David and Karen had to find a new lawyer since they still had not be able to present their “proofs.” This was the law; they had a right to a rebuttal.

We were grateful that their lawyer was dismissed but there was a big downside now. We had to wait to reschedule. It was a long wait but finally after another month a new trial was scheduled. Unfortunately, this date was right after October 7 and because of the war as per the judge’s preference the date was postponed. As we were once again waiting for a new trial to begin, baruch Hashem, my lawyer gets a message the Karen and David moved Rachel’s body to a different branch of the crematoria without telling us. He immediately went into action and once again prevented them from doing a cremation. The depth of Karen’s evil was mind boggling.

Finally, the trial was rescheduled. Now was Karen and David’s time to speak. David was lost and had no real idea what he was saying. Even the judge began to be concerned about him and questioned him herself. It was devastating to hear him.

“David, did Rachel want a cremation? Did she specifically tell you so?”

“Yes, she did and these people sent gangs to stop us. They won’t leave us in peace.”

“Who told you they sent gangs?”

“That little lady over there. I can’t remember her name, she is my new family. She told me Rachel wants me to live with her.”

“David did someone tell you what to say today?”

David started again on a tangent repeating the same dialogue. As we watched this sad, lost, man try to put together his thoughts many of us had tears streaming down our faces.

His testimony continued in this vein for just a few minutes until the judge excused him and ordered a court evaluation to determine his competency.

Then Karen was called to the stand, she was caught in a tangle of lies and kept changing her story. Our lawyer again showed many holes and inconsistencies in her story. Finally, after another hour the trial wound down and we were told, b’ezras Hashem, we would have an answer in another month or so.

With hope in our hearts and many prayers we waited anxiously for good news. On December 23, 2023 the verdict was handed down but for some reason it was not seen until the beginning of January. Chasdei Hashem the judge had ruled in our favor. We could call the Chevra Kadisha and set Rachel’s burial in motion. On this erev Shabbos we rushed to see what my husband’s halachic obligations were and to reach the U.S. before sundown.

We were told my husband had to begin to sit shiva as soon as the Chevra Kadisha took responsibility for Rachel. The time flew and finally all the arrangements were made. Shabbos came here in Eretz Yisrael and with my husband officially in avel we started to try to grapple with the mourning process. Unbeknownst to us when they tried to get Rachel out of the crematoria they were told Karen was going to make an appeal and she had until Jan. 23, 2024.

Motzei Shabbos I was checking on how things were progressing and heard this staggering news. I spoke with our lawyer who regrettably confirmed this. Again, we were stuck just waiting with no recourse.

My husband was told to continue sitting shiva and it was a very unnerving experience. We dug deep and worked on our emunah. We knew everything happened for a reason and we didn’t need to understand why.

Each day passed slowly but when Jan. 23 arrived there was no appeal and our gratitude overflowed. Finally, after six long months filled with hurt, fear and uncertainty, all the necessary arrangements were made and three days later my dear mother-in-law was laid to rest.

We all participated in the burial via Zoom, and it was such a meaningful experience. Never before I had understood the extreme importance of chesed shel emes. Hashem gave us a precious gift. We were able to overcome a tremendous challenge and make a Kiddush Hashem for her neshama. We were zoche to touch and encourage so many others with our story. If you chas v’shalom are ever in need of support for a situation like this, please feel free to reach out.

May Hashem protect us all from the evilness in the world today and may we see the building of the Beis HaMikdash in our days.


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