Daughter wants shul fees back over missing rabbi

Percy Kay was a member of the synagogue for 20 years. His daughter wants the money back to give to a cancer research charity after no rabbi showed up to officiate his shivah


The last month has been tough for Sam Dembina. When her father, Percy Kay, checked in to the Royal Free hospi­tal for kidney treatment, he found out he had terminal bladder cancer.

After he passed away two weeks lat­er, the hospital refused to release the body for burial because he had not died of the illness for which he had been admitted. Ms Dembina had to wait five days for the body.

The funeral took place last Friday — and as the coffin was interred, a mem­ber of the burial society slipped and fell head-first into the grave.

“All I could see was his feet sticking out,” she said.

“Thank God, he was OK. It’s just unheard of for something like that to happen. It was like a comedy sketch.”

However, she found what happened next far from amusing. Her brother had flown in for the levoyah and the shivah — the family had decided to sit for only one night. “There were quite a lot of people at my house. At about quarter to eight I asked, ‘Where’s the rabbi?’”

Mr Kay had been a member of Wood­side Park synagogue for 20 years and the shul’s Rabbi, Pinchas Hackenbroch, had officiated at the funeral. Howev­er, the rabbi had told the synagogue that he would be unable to attend the shivah on Sunday night because he was due at a wedding. According to Ms Dembina, the shul said they were organising another rabbi to officiate the shiva service. But no one turned up.

“My cousin ended up taking the prayers,” Ms Dembina said. “My father was a member at that shul for 20 years, and they couldn’t even respect him for one night, by sending a rabbi to say prayers properly. I feel devastated that my Dad didn’t have the send-off that he should have had.”

Ms Dembina said the shul had apolo­gised to her but that she was not satis­fied. “I’m doing the Shine half-marathon walk for cancer research in September, in honour of my father. I want the con­tributions that my dad paid to the shul back, so that I can use them for the charity, for my father,” she said.

A spokesperson for Wood­side Park said: “The US burial team worked hard to accommo­date the fam­ily’s wishes and Rabbi Hackenbroch kept his days clear in order to attend and officiate at the funeral for when a date was agreed with the family.

“The family wanted to conduct a single evening’s shiva on the one even­ing when the rabbi was not available — something of which the family have acknowledged they were aware.”

The spokesman went on to say that “it was confirmed four days in advance of the shiva that the deceased’s neph­ew would conduct the service, which was attended by our shul chairman. Woodside Park Synagogue would like to send our condolences to all of Mr Kay’s family.”

Ms Dembina, however, said her cous­in had contacted a member of the shul committee and was asked “if we had a rabbi to lead prayers. My cousin said he didn’t know and made a joke that if no one turned up he’d have to do it.

“The fact that Woodside Park didn’t call me and went on hearsay is unaccepta­ble.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive