Look, when it comes to racism, nothing really shocks me anymore. However, the following story took the wind out of my sails. Apparently racism is very real – at least I think it is. And, apparently, racism doesn’t end when one dies. Yeah, so much for the idea that racism itself will die some day, right? But seriously, I’ve heard of many instances of racial discrimination, and I’ve featured many such instances on this website for the past four years. But this one’s a first; this one is about a Black woman who happens to be dead right now. Even in death, she’s unable to receive any peace.
Juliet Steer was dying of cancer when she chose her final resting place in the woods of southeastern Connecticut. She picked the plot in an interfaith section of a Jewish cemetery in Colchester because it was peaceful, her brother said, and she died at age 47 in 2010.
But that peace has been broken by a lawsuit seeking to have her remains exhumed and moved because Steer was not Jewish. The dispute over Steer, who was black, escalated recently with allegations of racism against the plaintiff and of retaliation against her by fellow congregation members.
Maria Balaban, a 72-year-old white member of the Congregation Ahavath Achim, sued in state court in New London nearly a year ago, alleging the congregation broke its own rule against burials of non-Jews at its three cemetery properties when it allowed the burial of the Jamaican-born Steer, who lived in the neighboring town of East Hampton. The synagogue says its rules allow for burial of non-Jews.
Balaban, who is also a member of the conservative congregation’s board of directors, has reserved plots at the same cemetery for herself and her husband, and they have relatives buried there. She didn’t return several messages seeking comment, but her lawyer denies the accusations and says her background, which includes employment as a social worker, demonstrates she is not racist.According to the congregation board’s meeting minutes, Balaban was present when the board in 2009 unanimously approved setting aside a section of the Colchester Jewish Aid Congregation Cemetery for interfaith couples, their non-Jewish children and other non-Jews.
Steer is the only person buried there. Four white people have reserved plots in the interfaith section, but Balaban isn’t challenging their purchase or usage of the plots, according to lawyers for both the plaintiff and defendant. The four people include an interfaith couple who are married and another couple who are not.
The congregation’s lawyer, George Purtill, filed a court document last month alleging that Balaban is suing only because Steer was black. He said Balaban approved of the interfaith cemetery allowing non-Jews, contested it only after Steer was buried there and has made derogatory comments about Steer’s race — among them that Steer should have been buried in the back of the cemetery, away from the Balaban family plots. (source)
Mow of course according to the attorney for Ms. Baklahan claims there’s no way she is or can be racist. According to him, by virtue of her career as a social worker in New York City, there’s no way she;s racist because she has helped many African Americans. Well, this may be true; however, the fact that she doesn’t have a problem with 4 white non-Jews being buried there as oppossed to the only Black person currently burried there, tells me she’s racist, or kinda sorta almost racist. I guess this answers the life long question of whether there’s racism in heaven. My guess is, yes.