Very Much Like “Public,” Only Without the “L”

Many thanks to my pal Rita Ross from the Record’s copy desk, who showed me a wonderful typo in our Letters to the Editor (p. 9) of Monday, Aug. 2.

Written by an Elise Shapiro of Newburgh, the letter pointed out how folks around the city often “anonymously contribute to the well-being of our lives.” How true! And how awful that the letter said she’d seen her gardener working for free “on the pubic square … and stopped to say hello.” Read that again. Check the spelling of the word your brain registered as, “public.” 


After reading that sentence — and climbing back up into my chair — my first thought was, “Yeah, I’d say hello too, if someone was working on my pubic square!”

It’s the quintessential copy-editor’s nightmare typo: dropping the “l” from “public.”

I don’t have the software to do this, but i know it exists, and I’m sure that if someone performed a concordance of words in the paper, “public” would turn out to be one of the most frequently used ones. I mean, the whole reason for our existence is to protect the public, be the watchdog of public officials, report on the use and misuse of public funds, and so on.

To be honest, I don’t think we drop the “l” often. But it’s exactly the kind of thing that would prevent poor Ms. Shapiro from clipping her otherwise perfectly lovely letter, and showing it to her grandchildren.

For the record (as it were): I don’t know who edits our Letters to the Editor, but it’s not the Night Copy Desk. (WHEW!)

Guess Who’s Working Undercover?

 Today I found out that a friend who once lived with me in my house, is a paid, undercover informant for the Newburgh Police Department.

Man. And you think you know somebody!

We had a luncheon date of sorts, during which I asked what his plans were for the rest of the day, and he let it slip that he was on his way to police headquarters. I asked why he was headed there, and he prefaced his revelation with, “Well, I know you won’t tell anyone.” Basically, he tips them off when he sees major drug deals going down.

So there you have it. I WON’T tell anyone. Except to say: If you live in the City of Newburgh, no matter what neighborhood, you probably see this man at least two or three times a week.

OK. That’s it. Let the guessing begin. But: I’ll never tell!

Hasidim Rescue Reform Cemetery: You Read It Here First

Here is a story i drafted for the Record and sent them on Friday, July 31, 2010, for all the world to read just in case they never run it.

Reform Temple, Hasidim Join Hands to Restore Jewish Cemetery

 CITY OF NEWBURGH — Many questions surround the abandoned Jewish cemetery at the base of Newburgh’s Snake Hill. But one of the toughest has been: Who would pay for its fencing and restoration? Now that question has been answered, thanks to unexpected help from Kiryas Joel.

After a member of Temple Beth Jacob, Newburgh’s Reform synagogue, discovered several headstones with Hebrew inscriptions on a steep, thickly wooded hillside while hiking in the fall of 2008, temple members began looking into the cemetery’s origins and ownership. City historian Mary McTamaney located for them a deed from 1916, which yielded surprising news: TBJ itself was the cemetery’s owner.

“Many stones are half-sunk in the soil in that area, so there may be more graves that we are still unaware of,” said Kenneth Packer, chairman of TBJ’s cemetery committee. “But so far, we have definitely identified about 20 names with their dates of birth and death.” No one had been buried at Snake Hill before 1892 nor since 1908, according to the dates on the stones that are still readable.

The temple’s youth group did an initial cleanup in April 2009, hauling brush and taking rubbings of the headstones. But it was clear that the area, obviously a hotspot for youthful revelers, would need a locked fence. It seemed a miracle was needed.

That miracle arrived in December. Several residents of the Satmar community of Kiryas Joel, led by Zalmon Weinstock of Congregation Oitzer haChesed, read about the cemetery’s discovery and its need for a fence and drove to TBJ to talk about it with Packer and his committee.

The Kiryas Joel delegation ended up doing fundraising within their own community and hired a company to erect a gated chain-link fence, interwoven with green material on just three of the cemetery’s four sides so that folks can still look in while passing by.

On Wednesday, Packer and several men from Kiryas Joel gathered in the cemetery to say Kaddish – the Jewish prayer for the dead – over the graves and, at the same time, to do more work on cleaning and reading the headstones.

“There’s much more work to be done,” Packer said. “Many stones are broken and will have to be repaired, at great expense. Many are still unreadable. And we’re not at all sure we’ve found all the graves. But the generosity, kindness and energy of the residents of Kiryas Joel have been invaluable to us. They’ve forged new ties between our two communities.”

To contribute to the restoration of the Snake Hill cemetery, call Temple Beth Jacob at 562-5516.