Paris Jew reburied in Israel after surprise exhumation

(JTA) – A Jewish celebrity art dealer who died in 1870 in France has been reburied in Israel after being exhumed from his Paris grave due to property laws.

Jacob Giacomo Tedesco’s funeral on Sunday in Beit Shemesh marked the end of a seven-year legal fight led by his relatives to receive his remains for reburial. Authorities exhumed his body under a French law which allows graves to be emptied out 99 years after a burial.

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Tedesco’s great-great granddaughter discovered in 2006 that his remains had been exhumed from his grave at Paris’ Montpar­nasse cemetery and placed at the Pere Lachaise depository. “I found it had simply disappeared,” Debby Lifchitz, an Orthodox Jewish woman from Israel, is quoted as telling Le Figaro of Tedesco’s grave.

The family then launched a legal fight to have his remains transferred to Israel “where he would have an eternal resting place,” she is quoted as saying.

The owner of a major art gallery, Tedesco also opened Paris’ first kosher butcher shop; founded an Orthodox synagogue and built a ritual bath which remained active until World War II.

Jewish Orthodox laws dictate Jewish graves be left undisturbed, except for unusual cases.

In 2011, France saw the passing of a law which allows authorities to cremate human remains they exhumed — a practice which also goes against Jewish customs.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, who attended Tedesco’s funeral in Israel, told the Israeli news site Ynet that the French laws on cremation and exhumation should be changed as they “threaten to desecrate the dignity of the dead.”