Plenty of Money Made at 'Not-for-Profit' Cemetery

Paid $8.5M to Management Company That Controls Its Board

Digging for Gold: The board of not-for-profit Beth Israel Memorial Park in Woodbridge, N.J., is controlled by a management company, which earned a whopping $8.5 million in fees from the cemetery. The arrangement is legal, but raises eyebrows among watchdogs.
josh nathan-kazis
Digging for Gold: The board of not-for-profit Beth Israel Memorial Park in Woodbridge, N.J., is controlled by a management company, which earned a whopping $8.5 million in fees from the cemetery. The arrangement is legal, but raises eyebrows among watchdogs.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published December 11, 2012, issue of December 14, 2012.
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Weinberg said that the disparity in regulations on management fees between New York and New Jersey is the sort of issue she hopes her legislation will address.

“It sounds like a nonprofit business that maybe should be regulated a little more closely,” Weinberg told the Forward when told of the relationship between Beth Israel and StoneMor.

StoneMor declined repeated requests for comment for this story and would not answer questions submitted to a representative.

Others in the industry, however, say that New Jersey cemetery regulations already go far enough. All New Jersey cemeteries not owned by religious groups are required to be operated by not-for-profit corporations, which is not the case in the vast majority of other states. And New Jersey bars cemeteries from selling gravestones and other merchandise. “These are important sources of income in other parts of the country,” said David Shipper, a cemetery executive whose family controlled Beth Israel until 1995. “If you don’t look at the regulatory scheme in total and only talk about one or two pieces of it, you’re missing the boat.”

Beth Israel sits at the intersection of two highways in suburban North Jersey. A mall lies across U.S. 1 to the north; to the west is the Garden State Parkway. Inside, thousands of graves are spread out over two low hills, the sections separated by stands of evergreens. Rusted gates guard plots belonging to long-forgotten burial societies.

Founded in 1927, the cemetery is one of the largest in New Jersey. On a recent Monday morning, the cemetery’s narrow lanes were crowded with groundskeepers and gravediggers.

The grounds appear well kept to a casual visitor. To one funeral home director, however, who has been conducting funerals at Beth Israel for years, the facility shows signs of neglect.

“It’s just not what it used to be,” said the funeral director, who asked that his name not be used because he does business with the cemetery on a regular basis. “It’s not as pristine. The whole cemetery is not what it was.”

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