Monday, December 8, 2008

Guess who's buried in a Jewish cemetery?

In this series of life’s surprises, I will begin to offer an intriguing array of celebrities and the infamous who are buried in Jewish cemeteries!

Along the way, I also hope to teach a bit about Jewish burial customs - as my grandfather would say, “for the same price.”

Who can forget where they were on November 22, 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy? A more difficult task may be trying to remember who you were with two days later when Lee Harvey Oswald himself was killed by Jack Ruby.

I was at a Philadelphia Eagles football game standing on line to enter the old Franklin Field when we heard the news. I remember the first comments I heard from my father, “Are you kidding, someone killed Oswald?” and “I hope he’s not Jewish!”

Live on TV that Sunday morning in a Dallas police station, Jack Ruby certainly killed the presidential assassin - and, yes, he was in fact a member of our tribe.

Ruby died in prison of lung cancer on January 3, 1967. All Jews are equal in death and he was no exception. He is buried at Chicago's Westlawn Cemetery. Below is his traditional tombstone with the inscription “Beloved Son and Brother JACK RUBY April 25, 1911- January 3, 1967.”

At the bottom of the marker is the Hebrew acronym found on many Jewish graves, TAV NUN TZADI BET HEY, translated as, “May His Soul be Bound into the Bonds of Life Eternal.” Even a convicted murderer is given a blessing at his death!

The fine folks at will even show you the plot number and gps coordinates.

If you have suggestions of unusual Jews and their grave sites to analyze, please contact me at

Rabbi Gary M. Gans

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