Dozens of Strangers Turn Up at Funeral for Elderly Woman After Learning No One Was Attending
When Ora Weinbach heard her father, a rabbi, was officiating an elderly woman's funeral service that no one planned to attend, her heart sank.
"I thought, 'Somebody should be there,'" she said.
So the young New Jersey high school teacher turned to her Facebook page, asking for others to join her at the service. The response was immediate.
"People started sharing it," Weinbach told InsideEdition.com. "Someone shared that share, somebody else shared that share and it just spread."
On Wednesday, about 30 people wound up attending the graveside funeral at Temple Israel Cemetery in Blauvelt for Francine Stein, although they didn't know that was her name.
"I only know that she was Jewish," Weinbach said. "My dad said the funeral home told him she was a musician and a piano teacher at the Juilliard School."
They didn't know much about her, but they knew she deserved a suitable funeral, especially so they could adhere to Jewish tradition. They required 10 men to recite a prayer, Weinbach said.
"The men came to make sure there could be a proper Jewish burial," Weinbach said. "To me that made the presence of the women even more special."
Her father, Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach, led the service. The strangers carried the casket and took turns shoveling dirt onto it, as is Jewish tradition.
"In Judaism, there's a tremendous amount of respect for life and therefore death," Ora Weinbach said. "I think that really motivated people to come."
Among them was Bassie Friedman. One of her colleagues at Marquis Home Care had seen Weinbach's Facebook post.
"It really touched us," she told InsideEdition.com, so they all said: "Let's make this happen!"
"We put out a post saying anyone who needs transport or needs water, we'll provide it," she said. Six people from her company attended.
"It was very life changing. It was a very bittersweet moment," she said. "There were tears. Anyone passing by would've thought we were burying a loved one."
It turns out that Stein had loved ones who would have attended her funeral, if only they'd known she had died, according to Gwen Curry, an assistant administrator and case manager at New Monsey Park, where Stein lived for 10 years until 2014.
Curry said that after Stein was diagnosed with cancer, she left Monsey Park in 2014 before going to a hospital and then entering a nursing home. She was 83 when she passed away. They don't know why they weren't told about her death. "We usually get a call if someone is here for 10 years," Curry said.
"Francine was a beautiful person," she said. "She wanted to give even if she didn't have to."
She remembers how Stein, a talented piano player, had asked for a keyboard in her room so she could practice before performing on the larger piano for other residents. The woman had no husband or children, she said, which surprised her. "She was a catch!"
She heard about Stein's death when a local reporter called her on Thursday.
"My heart was broken," Curry said. "It's heartbreaking that we weren't able to say goodbye... [but] my heart felt good that she wasn't alone. It's a wonderful thing for strangers to come out and support her."
Weinbach, the daughter of the rabbi, said she was overwhelmed by just how many people came out less than 24 hours after her Facebook request. But to her, it was a no-brainer.
"I teach a class on the Jewish life cycle and we do a lot about death, dignity and being there as a community," she said. "That was very much on my mind — to live the ideals I teach. I hope [Stein] knew on some level that we were there and that it was some comfort for her."
Curry agreed that her old friend would've been touched.
"She would've been disappointed no one would've turned up," she said. "But these people opened their hearts. She would've been happy that they took the time out of their day. That's a wonderful thing."