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New plaintiff added to judicial review case of controversial coroner's policy

Ita Cymerman is the director of Schonfeld Square in Hackney, a care home for Strictly Orthodox elderly people

    A British woman who said she was “terrified” by the conduct of Mary Hassell has become an official claimant in a High Court action against the controversial coroner.

    Ita Cymerman was officially added to the judicial review looking into Ms Hassell’s “cab-rank rule”, her policy of ignoring the Jewish religious requirement for quick burials.

    Mrs Cymerman’s application was approved by the Chief Coroner on Monday and not opposed by Ms Hassell.

    Also known as Ita Simons, Mrs Cymerman is the director of Schonfeld Square in Hackney, a care home for Strictly Orthodox elderly people. Hackney is one of the boroughs under the jurisdiction of Ms Hassell, the senior coroner for Inner North London.

    In her witness statement to the High Court, Mrs Cymerman described herself as “an Orthodox Jew, and as such I endeavour to live my life in full accordance with the Jewish law and ethics, including those which relate to death and burial. It is an important principle of Judaism that a body must be buried as soon as practicable after death, ideally on the day of death.”

    The 79-year old, who lives in Hackney, stated: “I am deeply concerned that, when my time comes, my death could be reported to the Defendant Coroner [Ms Hassell], who will subject my body to her ‘cab rank protocol.’ It is accordingly of significant personal importance to me to challenge, through the court, the decision of the Defendant coroner dates 30 October 2017 that ‘No death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family’.”

    Mrs Cymerman, who received an MBE in 1995, also cited a JC article from January in her submission to the court. It discussed how a number of Jews were thinking of moving out of Ms Hassell’s jurisdiction, which covers the boroughs of Camden, Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets, due to fears their bodies would be prevented from being buried quickly after they died.

    In the article, Mrs Cymerman described herself as “terrified at what this woman is doing to this community”.

    She added: “I have acquired a burial plot in Jerusalem, and I will, God willing, try and make sure that before I pass away I will not be in this country.”

    “I shall get onto a plane — even on a stretcher — and I will not let this women get her powers over me.”

    Speaking to the JC after she was added as a claimant to the hearing, Mrs Cymerman said: “We can’t help feeling that she [Mary Hassell] has got it in for us. She knows the strength of our feelings in this matter. That has been given to her, and she stubbornly refuses to listen to any reason.”

    The judicial review, which will be heard later this month, was granted following an application by the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS). The society took legal action after its attempts to persuade Ms Hassell to change her policy failed.

    Rabbi Asher Gratt, of the AYBS, said: “Having Mrs Cymerman join as a claimant adds a human touch to the case and may help in perceiving the additional mental anguish of a grieving relative being prevented from laying their loved one to rest with dignity”.

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