Black Market Sales of Jewish Cemetery Plots Blocked by Regulators

N.Y. State Intercession Halts Classified Grave-Hawking

Have I Got a Grave for You: New York told buyers of black market graves that their sales were invalid.
Josh Nathan-Kazis
Have I Got a Grave for You: New York told buyers of black market graves that their sales were invalid.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published April 05, 2013, issue of April 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

New York State officials have interceded in the case of a defunct Jewish burial society that was selling graves on the open market, effectively forcing the society to give up its remaining plots.

At least eight people who purchased graves at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, N.Y., from the Przedborzer Friends Society received letters in March from the New York State Department of State’s Division of Cemeteries informing them that their purchases were invalid.

The cemetery now says that it has reached a deal with Eric Bennett, president of the Przedborzer Friends Society, by which the purchases will be honored by the cemetery in return for the society turning over its remaining graves to the cemetery.

“I’ve spoken to Mr. Bennett and he is going to release the remaining vacant graves to the cemetery and that will effectively take care of the problem,” Beth David President Warren Rosen told the Forward.

Prior to the deal, purchasers of the graves found themselves left in the lurch. One retired teacher, speaking before the cemetery and the society came to their agreement, was livid. “He cheated me out of two thousand bucks,” said Irving Slayton, 89, referring to Bennett. “I thought everything was exactly right.

But [the letter from the state says] this is all null and void.”

The black market sales were first reported by the Forward in March.

Burial societies own vast tracts of unused graves in New York-area Jewish cemeteries. Originally founded to help defray burial costs for members, many of those societies now have no members left. The people who control the societies are often the children and grandchildren of former officers. State law in New York severely limits what the current officers can do with the societies’ graves. If they want to sell them, they must offer the graves at artificially low prices to the cemetery where they are located. That allows the cemeteries to flip the graves and sell them at market rates, producing income that can help the cemeteries maintain their grounds after all the plots are filled.

If a cemetery is interested in buying back the graves, the burial society is forbidden by law from turning down their offer and selling the graves on the open market. Yet that’s exactly what Bennett, president of the Przedborzer Friends Society, told the Forward he had done in a story published in March.


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!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • 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.