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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 5 of 5)

StoneMor’s management of Beth Israel doesn’t appear to have resulted in higher costs for clients. An adult burial at the cemetery costs $1,625, according to a May 2011 pricing chart, roughly on par with other New Jersey Jewish cemeteries. Some worry about the future, however, and whether for-profit companies seeking to win profits out of not-for-profit cemeteries are failing to ensure the burial grounds’ long-term survival.

That concern was behind the New York cemetery board’s efforts in the late 1990s to ban the management agreements with for-profit companies. “The management agreement is a superfluous agreement which does not increase the maintenance or care of the cemetery,” said Richard Fishman, director of the New York State Department of State’s Division of Cemeteries. In the long term, Fishman said he had worried that the for-profits wouldn’t stand by the cemeteries. “If there is no more profit, why would you do it? Then these people would disappear and the cemetery would be left on the hook,” Fishman said.

Cemetery reform advocates in New Jersey say that they hope reform of the state’s cemetery regulation regime will bring New Jersey in line with New York in areas such as management fees.

“We want the nonprofit cemeteries to make enough money to maintain themselves and to pay the people who work there, obviously,” said Weinberg, the state lawmaker. She said that the amount Beth Israel had paid in management fees was “quite phenomenal.”

Weinberg said that her cemetery reform bills would be considered in a state senate committee beginning on December 17.

“Our main goal has always been to find a way for the state of New Jersey to regulate cemeteries the way New York State does,” said Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer, a former president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis who has been engaged in the board’s cemetery reform efforts. “This legislation at least helps try to rein that in a little bit.”

Cemetery officials, on the other hand, say that the business is harder than it looks. David Shipper, who now owns dozens of cemeteries and funeral homes as president and CEO of Midwest Memorial Group and Indiana Memorial Group, among other firms, said that people don’t appreciate the costs involved. “When a backhoe costs $80,000 and the tent and chairs cost $8,000, it’s a tough business and people don’t understand what it costs to be ready for an interment, especially a Jewish interment,” Shipper said.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @joshnathankazis


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.