Sunday, December 02, 2007

Exclusive: Deceased Jews make news

The obituary is one of the most colorful, informative and entertaining forms of journalism, so it's small wonder that the market has taken off online, turning sites like Legacy.com and MySpace into virtual graveyard shrines. In the early years of Tabloidbaby.com, our Stories To Steal section each week featured The Life and Death of an "Ordinary" American, a link to an obituary or reminiscence of a person known to his friends and family, in his town or neighborhood and not far beyond, but whose life story showed wasn't "ordinary" at all. Today, we're running posts on dead people all the time, either because we knew them, bumped into them when they were alive, cited their impact on pop culture, or pointed out they'd managed to Die in Threes.

Now, a new tribute site that recently went online is already carving out an important niche and getting attention around the world. In My Heart memorializes famous people, prominent people and "ordinary" people alike. The catch is that all of them are Chosen People:

"In My Heart is the premier online portal for Jewish obituaries, Jewish tributes, Jewish eulogies and Jewish reminiscences for deceased Jewish individuals around the world.

"In My Heart provides the Jewish community worldwide tools for creation of memorial websites for deceased Jewish individuals in English and in Hebrew. In My Heart is a service for the Jewish community worldwide that will allow it to memorialize deceased Jewish family members, friends, and loved ones. In My Heart is located in Israel.

"The In My Heart blog is a place where we can begin honoring Jewish memories, Jewish lives, and deceased Jewish individuals, famous and famous only to their families and friends. We encourage you to start sending your reminiscences and tributes now to alan.abbey at gmail.com."

In its first days of operation, the site is already showing its relevance and range with a mix that includes news, tributes, historical figures and 21st century Jews like Samuel Steinfeld, 102, former chief justice of Kentucky's highest court... Herb Strauss, 78, a refugee from Nazi Germany, advertising executive, cantor and creator of a foundation that raised millions for leukemia research, who died one day before his fund’s annual benefit concert... "My dad, David Weinberg, most influential in my life... Israeli soldier Maayan Rotenberg... the lovely, tragic model Ilanit (Hila) Elmalich, who died of anorexia on her 34th birthday... and the lovely, tragic Sarit Weiss:

Sarit Weiss, 23, of Beersheva, Israel, died Nov. 23, a possible case of alcohol poisoning. She was found dead in a room at a kibbutz, with no signs of foul play or illegal entrance, after a night of heavy drinking.

Weiss’s friends told Israeli newspapers she was a terrific and funny person who loved to go out but, unfortunately, liked to drink too much.

“It doesn’t surprise me, because this wasn’t the first time she went out drinking,” a friend said. “Like many people her age she enjoyed drinking at parties.

Weiss’ family was shocked at the loss, and was surprised to hear she had been found in a kibbutz in the Galilee, because she had said she was going to a party in Ramat Gan, a Tel Aviv suburb.

“She was a friendly girl who loved to go out,” a family member said. “She had friends all over the country.”

A drinking-related death in a town called "Beer"-sheva? Nuggets like those are mined in obituaries.

In My Heart is the brainchild of Israeli marketing maven and website developer Gilad Nachum and Israel-based veteran journo Alan Abbey. And while they're encouraging users to write tributes, obits and to develop memorial pages in English and Hebrew, they've also got many noted writers and journalists contributing, including Our Man Elli in Israel.

(FUN FACT: The tribute to tragic model Hila ((top center)) is attracting the most hits on the site-- by a 20 to 1 margin. Tabloid rules, even in the world of memorial tributes...)

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