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Online Obituaries

Online Obituaries

The yentas who check on an hourly basis may want to bookmark a new Web site: Launched in mid-October, is a different sort of lifecycles Web site — it lists the latest passings in the Jewish community worldwide, along with funeral and shiva information. Users can enter their ZIP code and sign up for free e-mail notifications, notifying them instantaneously about funeral arrangements and minyan times.

Woodmere, L.I., resident Joseph Melohn, the 21-year-old founder of, came up with the idea for the site several years ago when his rabbi, Abraham Gruber of Lawrence, L.I., died. Unfortunately, Melohn didn’t find out about the death until later that evening. Since Jews believe in preserving the dignity of the body and burying the dead as soon as possible, the funeral had already taken place.

“We all felt horrible for not going,” Melohn says. “If only we had instant notification, I’d have seen it on my PDA and taken a break to attend the funeral.”

But it wasn’t until his wife’s grandmother, Katherine Deutsch, died a little less than a year ago that he created the Web site. “We wanted a way to memorialize her forever, and keep her close, in cyberspace,” says Melohn.

He named the site, evoking the popular Jewish expression “You should live until 120,” which blesses the recipient with a long, healthy life akin to that of Moses, who died at age 120. Melohn then began signing up synagogues, temples and funeral homes, and publicizing through online ads.

The site fills a real need in the greater Jewish community, Melohn says, and unites people from all branches of Judaism. “Numerous people told me, ‘I thought of that idea, but I never did anything about it.’” receives an average of 400 visitors a day and more than 1,000 synagogues and temples send notifications to be posted on the site. It may soon replace traditional community “chain call” lists, at least when it comes to shiva announcements. “It’s definitely more efficient,” Melohn says. “And it doesn’t cost them anything.”

In addition to instant notifications, allows users to send flowers or gift baskets to the family of the deceased. They can also order books about the laws of mourning through Artscroll and The site also provides a link to Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah, an organization that enables loved ones to sponsor the study of mishna or recitation of Kaddish to elevate the soul of the departed.

Family members and friends can also post obituaries memorializing the departed. “It’s almost like the New York Times,” Melohn says. And similar to OnlySimchas, users can sign a guestbook offering their condolences. Melohn is working on creating a program that would automatically e-mail the messages to the mourners.

Melohn bridles at the suggestion that is a “reverse OnlySimchas.” “Not to bash OnlySimchas, but it’s not a necessity. The fact that someone gets engaged or married is a beautiful thing. But if you miss someone’s funeral, there’s not much you can tell them. It’s a real chesed shel emes (a true kindness).”

While most people who find the site embrace the concept, Melohn has encountered a few cynics. “You’re making money off of death,” they say. But Melohn disagrees. “I’m really helping people and making a difficult time easier for the family of the deceased.”

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