After “an intense meeting” yesterday with authorities responsible for the recovery and burial of the dead, Rabbi Edgar Gluck, the Chaplain of the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office told lubavitch.com that he was satisfied that Jewish bodies would be treated with absolute regard for Jewish law.
“They revamped their protocol,” he said, explaining that because autopsies and other routine mortuary procedures are not allowed by Jewish law, they “promised no autopsies unless there was a suspicion of homicide.” Gluck, who was in New Orleans in behalf of Chabad’s rescue mission, said authorities were accommodating of the need to have rabbinic procedure followed out of respect for the Jewish dead.
Rabbi Gluck and rabbinical student Mendel Druk, one of Chabad’s relief people, met with a cadre of city and state morticians responsible for this aspect of the Katrina disaster. Among them were Dr. Louis Cataldei, Chief Medical Examiner and Chief of Emergency Medicine for the Parish of New Orleans, Dr. Corina Stern, Directory of Pathology for victims of Katrina, and Todd W. Ellis, Commander of Operations of Disaster Mortuary of FEMA.
“They promised to notify us as soon as any Jewish body is identified,” said Gluck, so that Chabad and Chesed Shel Emes can do its work to ready the body for proper Jewish burial.
According to Rabbi Gluck, who spoke to lubavitch.com on Tuesday, it was too soon to have any idea as to whether or how many Jewish dead there may be. “They are going house to house to search for dead,” he said. “We will be on stand-by with our Chevra Kadisha if and when we are needed.”