Facts About Members Funerals
Participating Funeral Directors and Chapels
The UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK has agreements with various Jewish funeral directors to provide their professional services and the use of a chapel in New York City as well as in some suburban counties. These agreements occasionally change because chapels may be sold and management could be replaced. Our office, whenever contacted, will always be able to provide to members exact chapel locations, the cost of additional funeral charges and any other fees which are normally paid by the family. Of these charges, the cost to a member’s family for the use of one of these participating chapels can vary. Some currently charge as little as $200.00 for the use of their chapel room for the funeral service. Graveside services can be arranged with any participating funeral director without regard for the location of their chapel. Many arrangements can be made on the telephone. More families each year choose to arrange graveside services.
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Membership Out of State
Some UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK members, having originally resided in New York, move to other areas throughout the country. Many have moved in the past decades to Florida and other Sunbelt states. There is a great advantage to all these families if they decide that their burial will be in a New York or New Jersey cemetery, to remain members in good standing . These members and their families are advised to call our office first when a death occurs. Our staff, when called at any time, will help arrange their out of town local needs as well as the shipping that will be required. While working together with a family, our staff, with their permission, will contact a New York participating funeral director. This director will immediately call their licensed representative near the location of the demised member to facilitate the return of the remains for burial.
Aside from the practicality of having no more than one funeral director responsible for the many arrangements that will be required until the burial is completed, there could also be a financial benefit. New York participating funeral directors of the UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK most often pay an director in other cities far less than the general prices charged to families. Families who contract with funeral chapels or funeral homes in their local communities must pay the prices listed on the General Price List (GPL) of that facility. Accordingly, participating directors pass the savings of their discounted price directly to our members and their families. This could safeguard families from paying “retail” prices generally charged by their local “out of town” chapels for removal, preparation, refrigeration, equipment, merchandise and shipping. Consequently, the family will not be billed by the local chapel or funeral director. They will only receive one bill, without duplicate fees or a mark up, directly from the organization’s participating funeral director.
The UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK invites anyone from outside the New York State area to join only if they want to return to the Metropolitan New York area for burial. Also, one should keep in mind that the savings afforded a family by a membership can make all the difference in choosing whether or not to return to their original New York society or family cemetery.
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Our Chevra Kadisha
The UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK provides its Taharos in conjunction with the offices of Chevra Kadisha of the Bikur Cholim of Boro Park; under the auspices of Rabbi Yosef Handler and of the Chevra Kadisha of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens; under the auspices of Rabbi Elchonon Zohn. The Rabbis are recognized throughout the world as the leading experts of a Chevrah Kadisha's complex responsibilities. In the environment of ever changing modern medicine and surgical procedures there are always new challenges and questions. These Chevros under the guidance of their respective Rabbinical Boards have been appointed to set the standards and supervises all Taharos for the UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK. Furthermore, the Chevrah Kadisha provide reliable shomrim (watchers) upon request.
An article by Rabbi Zohn, excerpts which are quoted here, briefly explains the history, commitment and the obligations of a "community chevrah kadisha".
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Respect For A Sacred Society
by: Rabbi Elchonon Zohn
"An elite club existed in the European shtetl, the membership of
which was handed down from father to son like most precious heritage.
Often its members were chosen by a lot or by secret vote. The "Chevra
Kadisha", the "Sacred Society" was generally the first group to be
organized in the founding of any Jewish community. The Chevra was
responsible for the entire spectrum of burial service, from pronouncing
death to plot allotment and cemetery maintenance.
This unique specialty originates in part from the Talmudic passage:
"Rabbi Simlai lectured: Torah begins and ends with acts of kindness...It
concludes with an act of kindness as is written (Deut.);'And he buried him
(Moses) in the valley.'"(Sotah 14A). Thus, the act of burial and its
preparation is seen as an emulation of G-D, fulfilling the commandment to
"walk in His ways." It is for this reason that the day of the birth and death
of Moses, Zayin Adar, the seventh day of the month of Adar, is the
traditional celebration of the Chevra Kadisha, underscoring that on that
day G-D performed the work of the Chevra, thereby giving it its special status.
What happened in this country that for many years the Chevra was
less than respected, often ridiculed and largely ignored? Why was the
Chevra generally perceived by the funeral director as an outside group to
be called in at a time of necessity, only when insisted upon by the family,
the Rabbi, the Society, or the cemetery? Respect for the Chevra Kadisha
as an institution, appreciation for the beauty of its customs, interest in its
meaning to the Jewish community declined to a great extent. I dare say,
that even within the most traditional quarters of the Jewish community,
there was a loss of respect and appreciation for the work of the Chevra,
whose members often downplayed and denied their participation. Why?
The loss of prestige of the work of the Chevra would be more
understandable and less painful if the customs and traditions were not so
beautiful and full of meaning. However, in truth, Tahara is very rich in its
significance, its every ritual a reflection of the most basic concepts of our
faith. Proper performance of the Tahara and Shmira are a unique
expression of the ultimate respect for the dignity and the specialty of man.
There is no place in this article to explain each minute custom and
its origin and significance. However, as an example, let me cite two main
themes: The first is that Judaism is predicated on the belief in an after-life
where man and woman will receive their ultimate eternal reward after
appearing before G-D for their final judgment ; in essence their final Yom
Kippur. Is it not then fascinating to know that the traditional burial shroud
is designed to be exactly like the clothing worn by the High Priest for his
Yom Kippur service, before G-D, in the Bais Hamikdosh, our holy Temple?
Doesn't it make sense to carefully wash and clean, and yes, ritually purify,
all Jews before their final Yom Kippur, when they are soon to appear
before the heavenly court?
A second accepted Jewish belief is that while the soul departs from
the body upon death, it nevertheless remains nearby, fully aware of what
transpires to the body and around it. This contradicts the oft-cited belief
that funerals are for the living. In fact, the dead are very much "present" at
their funeral. An excellent essay on this subject was written by Aryeh
Kaplan and published in a pamphlet by the National Conference of
Synagogue Youth (NCSY) of the Orthodox Union, entitled "Immortality and
With this understanding, the care with which the body is treated in
the washing and dressing process, the prohibition against unnecessary
talk at the Tahara, the need for someone to watch and stay by the body,
and the beautiful tradition of asking the deceased for forgiveness if
anything was lacking in the respect given them, are not simply ancient
rituals, but rather the logical consequence of the Jewish perception of
death and burial. Certainly all of this transcends the issue of whether one
had been a practicing Jew or not. Nor does it much matter if one was
affiliated with an Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform congregation, or not
affiliated at all. As a Jew, one is deserving of a burial reflecting the
richness and the beauty of Jewish tradition and belief.
I think the lack of respect and appreciation for the Chevra during the
middle decades of this century has many reasons. The underlying cause
is probably an outgrowth of the way in which European Jews settled in this
country. They were generally individuals seeking to better their economic
or family situation in a land of opportunity, not people coming to build
Jewish community. Most often they were seeking to become Americans.
When Jews with a deep commitment to Orthodoxy arrived, they often felt
this existing secular American-Jewish community to be a threat to their
Thank G-D, this situation is turning around. As the children of the
Holocaust generation are forming communities of their own, their concern
for this important facet of the Jewish life-cycle has come back into focus.
Chevras of young, educated and sincere people, men and women
committed to maintaining the beauty and the uniqueness of our heritage
have sprung up all across this country. Many of these Chevras will act as
the legal agents of the family regarding all funeral arrangements, thus
sparing the family that difficulty, while speeding up the process of burial.
These groups have the respect of the funeral directors they deal with and
the confidence of the communities they serve. I know because I have
lectured to many of them.
I am fortunate and proud to be at the head of the Chevra in Queens and Long Island under the auspices of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, a group of Rabbis representing over 60 congregations. In our area, the percentage of Jewish people having Tahara has increased from 2-3% to almost 25% in the last 15 years. Respect for the work we do continues to grow, as we strive to maintain the highest standards of excellence and efficiency. Aware of and sensitive to the complexities of the Jewish funeral home, we have developed a wonderful working relationship based on mutual respect.... We are careful to maintain the cleanliness of the funeral home, work within the time frame the director is comfortable with, while never compromising what is required by our beautiful and special customs and traditions. It is my conviction that this trend will continue to grow and spread, so that every Jew will be privileged to be buried with the special beauty that is a Tahara, by caring , sensitive and special people who make up the Chevra Kadisha. As Jews it is their birthright and heritage.”
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Burial in Israel
Any member of the UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK can choose to purchase graves in Israel. In the past most have favored cemeteries in the heart of Jerusalem. Our organization will assist with the purchase of graves in Jerusalem from reputable chevros (burial societies) that have historically worked with the Jerusalem City Government. We would help any person, regardless of membership, seeking our advise and counsel to contact any Israeli chevra without any commissions or fees. We are proud that we have earned the trust of all the chevros in Israel and we are most proud that we continue to have a strong working relationship with the Chevra Kadisha Kehilas Yerushalaim, Jerusalem’s largest group. Through our office, this chevra will secure and guarantee in writing all that is required for a complete funeral and burial in Jerusalem. It will include the grave purchase in any of their vast cemetery parcels in the heart of Jerusalem. It will also include the transfer from Ben Gurion Airport to the cemetery, government fees and permits, opening and closing of the grave and a minyon for the funeral service. The chevra also coordinates with family or friends traveling on the flight with the coffin as well as coordinating with family and friends throughout Israel who may want to attend the burial. The family would have the choice of having a graveside service or a chapel service if the burial is in Har Hamenuchot, Jerusalem.
Our organization can also assist with the purchase of graves throughout Israel from reputable chevros and help to obtain all the required legal documentation including contracts and deeds.
Understandably, when burial is in Israel, most all of the standard requirements to arrange a funeral in New York, whether or not there is a service in a local chapel, still apply. Furthermore, there are also additional legal requirements in the States when a coffin is shipped overseas. If one is a member of the UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK, many of our benefits and all the savings that can be applicable will ultimately protect a member’s family that plans a burial in Israel. Our official participating licensed funeral directors are most sensitive to the added expenses of shipping to Israel and special consideration is made for our members.
It is a goal of the UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK to help our member families guard against unscrupulous shipping agents, salesman, brokers, directors, inflated prices caused by sales commissions, misleading advertisements and questionable claims.
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Kaddish and Yartzeit
The greatest respect one may bestow upon departed
relatives or friends is to perpetuate their memory. It has
been said that a person is not really “gone” until all those
who remember the deceased or the name of the departed are
also deceased. This respect and the act of remembering may
be achieved by simply following one or more of Judaism
timeless ideals and customs, the observance of kaddish and
the yartzeit. Because we realize that many families may be
unaffiliated or unable to personally attend to these
responsibilities The UNITED HEBREW COMMUNITY OF NEW
YORK , Adath Israel Synagogue is able to perform each of the
following services for a very nominal donation of $300.00 to
our Community Fund charity.
1. Kaddish observed three times a day during the first year
after the demise.
2. Yartzeit observed each year on the anniversary of the demise.
Contact our office for details and instructions.
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