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Strangers respond to United Synagogue call to attend Jewish woman's funeral

Gloria Starr was in her seventies when she passed away in hospital in August with no known or living family

    More than 15 people responded to the United Synagogue’s urgent call for people to attend a funeral of a Jewish woman who has no family.

    The request issued on Friday morning called for people to attend Waltham Abbey cemetery at 11 am.

    According to the US, Gloria Starr was in her seventies when she passed away in hospital in August with no known or living family.

    With no one to contact, the hospital kept her body in a morgue awaiting burial. A US hospital chaplain became aware of her death when one of the hospital staff said that they believed she was Jewish.

    Rabbi Ari Cohen, the chaplain at the hospital, managed to track down her birth certificate and records of her mother and grandparents and discovered that she was born in America and came to London for work.

    She is thought to have only had two visitors during her stay in hospital from former colleagues.

    Rabbi Stanley Coten of Ruislip shul and head of the US’s hospital visiting service conducted the service, the cost of which was picked up by the US.

    A US spokesperson said: “We feel we have a obligation to do these things when someone dies with no family.

    “Carrying out the funeral was the ultimate chesed shel emt [ultimate act of kindness] because the person we are burying has no way of acknowledging the kindness shown to her.

    “We are extremely grateful for the extraordinary work of the burial staff that helps make these funerals happen at short notice. “

    The journalist James Masters saw the call on Twitter and was one of around 15 men and women who turned up to pay their respects to Ms Starr z'l and make up a minyan.

    He said “It was incredibly moving and quite remarkable. She didn’t have a family here and she had one friend who attended the funeral to give a eulogy.

    “His name was Graham and he spoke movingly about how wonderful she was and the joy she brought to people.”

    Mr Masters added: “There is something special about our community that we will come out to be together at such short notice. I think a lot of people come because god forbid the same situation happens to them they would want people to be there for them.”

    He said the attendees stood together round her graveside and said Kaddish, which was “very powerful to be able to do for her.”

    Rabbi Coten praised Rabbi Cohen's efforts to establish the woman's Jewish identity. 

    "A lot of work went into it to ensure that she got the burial that she deserved. It was a very unusual funeral because no one knew her apart from her former colleague who said a few words. 

    "He spoke about how sociable and friendly she was. It goes to show the lengths we are all willing to go through and was very moving."

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