Jewish Cemetery Head Earns Fat Salary

Cedar Park Chief Among Highest-Paid Communal Leaders

Eternal Rest: The president of this New Jersey cemetery was forced to give up leadership roles at three New York cemeteries amid allegations of excessive compensation.
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Eternal Rest: The president of this New Jersey cemetery was forced to give up leadership roles at three New York cemeteries amid allegations of excessive compensation.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 11, 2012, issue of June 15, 2012.
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In 2010, the most recent year for which records are available, Klapper’s base salary was $2.1 million. According to Cedar Park’s Rose, a portion of that amount reflects the value of a deferred compensation package funded by an insurance policy that matured in 2010, which will be paid out over time.

The combined revenue of the three related organizations in 2009 was $15.8 million. A database compiled by the Economic Research Institute, which compiles data on executive compensation, shows only one person receiving a comparable salary among executives running not-for-profit cemeteries with revenues of up to $20 million.

Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a non-Jewish cemetery in Glendale, Calif., had revenue of $6 million in 2009 and paid its CEO & president a base salary of $772,000 plus a sizable bonus. But Forest Lawn claimed assets that year of $490 million, while Cedar Park claimed combined assets of $139 million. In 2010, Forest Lawn’s revenue skyrocketed to $68 million, suggesting that the cemetery operates on a different financial scale.

In the Forward’s 2011 survey of Jewish communal salaries — a survey that did not include Jewish cemeteries — only two individuals earned more than Klapper: Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center received $739,000 in 2009, while Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, received $853,000.

Yeshiva University has more than 6,000 employees. Cedar Park has fewer than 200.

In an emailed statement, Rose defended Klapper’s pay.

“[O]ur cemeteries are state of the art facilities,” Rose wrote. “We have 300 acres of property and over 25,000 crypt spaces in modern beautiful buildings. There are no other facilities like ours on the east coast. If you had visited other cemeteries, especially those in New York, you would have concluded that none offer the quality and dignity at burial, or offer mourners and visitors the opportunity to reflect in an environment like ours.”

Rose suggested that there are some individuals who hold positions at a number of otherwise unrelated cemeteries in New York whose cumulative compensations are higher than Klapper’s. Rose did not respond to an inquiry as to the names of those individuals. The Forward identified one person who is an officer at four unrelated New York cemeteries from which he earned $571,000 in 2010.

According to experts, the cemetery isn’t in violation of any rules or regulations in its compensation of Klapper. The section of the IRS code that regulates compensation by not-for-profit organizations doesn’t apply to cemeteries. New Jersey cemetery regulators have no direct say over executive compensation.

But Jewish community leaders still have concerns about the cemetery’s compensation practices. Jewish law and tradition require that bodies be buried as soon as possible after death, meaning that after a death has occurred, Jews can’t take time picking a cemetery, or choosing the day of the week when a burial takes place.

Cedar Park appears to be something of a family business. A deceased former officer, Richard Schlein, shares a surname with Jeffrey Schlein, the current vice president of the cemetery. Richard Schlein’s father, Murray Schlein, who died in 1960, served as president of Cedar Park for more than 20 years.


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