Wednesday, November 16, 2016

NYC Jewish residents search Perinton landfill for lost artifacts 

Jewish artifacts that found their way to a Perinton landfill caused buses full of New York City residents to descend on the trash piles to search for the missing items.

Several tefillin, or small leather boxes containing Jewish Scripture verses on bits of parchment paper, and a prayer shawl were in a clear plastic bag when it accidentally fell into a trash bin at a synagogue in New York City.

Once the members of the synagogue realized the items might have fallen into the garbage, they alerted New York City trash personnel, who called High Acres Landfill and said the items were most likely in 32 rail containers at the Perinton site, said Nicole Fornof of Waste Management, which runs High Acres.

"Then 20 or more volunteers came from a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn," said Fornof, adding that they raised around $25,000 to fund the search effort.

"They bought their own Tyvek suits, boots, face masks, the whole thing," she said.

High Acres is the second landfill in the state to accept substantial amounts of municipal solid waste from New York City via rail, which likely aided the trash agencies in tracing the possible trajectory and whereabouts of the artifacts.

High Acres workers helped spread refuse from the containers — which contained about 640 total tons of trash — in thin layers on the ground, while the Jewish community members combed through it with rakes.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren heard about the search and offered to send Rochester Police Department officers with dogs to sniff out the items, said Fornof. But all efforts early in the week were unsuccessful — the community members went home Tuesday and may come back next week to search through the remaining 16 containers, she said.

The tefillin can be passed down through generations, so the lost ones could be heirlooms, she said.

The landfill's been involved with strange searches like this over the years, she said, with businesses, law enforcement or residents searching for items such as lost rings or criminal evidence.

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