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.
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Bennett, who inherited control of the Przedborzer from his father, said that no members had come forward requesting burial in the 20 plots the society still controlled in Beth David during his father’s entire tenure as president. He tried to sell the graves to Beth David, but rejected their offer.

“They were offering me $5,000 for all the plots,” he said. “I said no.”

Instead, Bennett advertised the plots in the classified pages of the Forward. That’s where Slayton, the retired teacher, said that he saw them.

Slayton purchased a single plot for $2,000 from Bennett in June 2012.

“At my advanced age, I was considering buying a burial plot out of my money so that my niece shouldn’t have to go looking around and pay for it later on,” Slayton told the Forward. “I know that at the present time that two thousand bucks is a steal for an individual burial plot.”

Warren Rosen, an official at Beth David, told the Forward in March that the cemetery sells plots for $3,500.

Slayton received the deed to his newly purchased plot and saw nothing amiss. That changed in late March, when he received a letter from Richard Fishman, the director of the New York State Department of State’s Division of Cemeteries, telling him that he couldn’t actually be buried in the plot he had bought.

“The Division of Cemeteries has been informed that the grave(s) you have purchased from the Independent Przedborzer Friend Society are illegal,” the letter read. “If you have filed deeds/reservations with Beth David Cemetery, they are null and void.”

Fishman told the Forward that he had sent similar letters to eight or nine individuals who had purchased graves from Bennett.

The letters suggest that grave buyers “seek redress” from the Przedborzer Friends Society and from Bennett, and that they send a complaint to the Division of Cemeteries if Bennett or the Przedborzer won’t refund the purchases of the plots.

“Mr. Bennett, I think has got to work out something with the cemetery,” Fishman told the Forward. “If not, he’s got to pay these people back for graves they can’t use.”


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