Disclaimer: This article is meant to be informative, it takes a serious subject that most know nothing about, and addresses the process in an informative manner. The author chose to approach the subject with humor as much as possible.
Update: The information and costs have been updated since the publication of this article.
If there is one subject that is absolutely taboo to speak about in Lubavitch of today, it’s death. To put it bluntly, we just don’t believe in it. Yet unfortunately it does happen, and when it does, people are thrown into a process that they know little to nothing about. In many ways it’s similar to making a wedding, in that it seems like everywhere you turn someone is asking for a check. Yet whereas a wedding you have months to plan, a Lubavitch funeral often happens within hours of a person passing. No time to plan, no time to research. It’s just “call Shomrai Haddas, and make sure you have your checkbook handy”.
So what does it cost to get buried?
– First you pay Shomrei Hadas (the Chapel) $3,770
– Montefiore at least $2,800
– The Chevra Kadisha will need at least $6,500 to cover the cost of the plot
– and the hearse driver gets $100
Total is $13,170 so far.
Now keep in mind, you may need to pay more ($500) for using the chapel at the chapel, and if you snag a good spot at the Old Montefiore Cemetery, that too can be more expensive (think within a mile of the Ohel).
So without the extra bells and whistles, $13,170 will get a nifter buried in one of the mini Lubavitch sections scattered to the four corners of Old Montefiore cemetery. Leave it like that and you’ll have a mound of earth with a 3×4 inch sign sticking out with the name and date of death. Most people feel it’s important to place a matzaivah on the plot, and here comes the second set of checks.
The standing stone (typical style) costs around $3,000. These costs include a limited number of letters, so a magilah will cost much more than simply name date and serial number (between 1-5 dollars each additional letter). The bed (an open ‘frame’ sometimes filled with white pebbles) will cost around $250. If you want a slab with more writing laying over the whole grave, that will of course cost more.
The cemetery will want $1,200 for a foundation, and $3,400 for perpetual care.
And also, since we like doing everything in a rush, you can tack on at least another $400 for a rush fee.
Total (on the cheap side) is an additional $8,000.
Now as time goes on, the matzaivah slowly turns green and sinks deeper into the ground, hopefully straight down, other times it can compete with the leaning tower of Pisa. Now you get a call from a gentleman Shimon Goldberg to renovate the matzaivah. Goldberg, who charges just the cost to pull the matzaivah out of the ground, give it a good power washing and lay out some lovely new white pebbles in the bed, will still cost anywhere between $150-$500, but at last we’ve come to an actual optional option. This will only be (one hopes) some years after one has recovered from the pocket shock of the funeral and initial matzaivah cost. So you can decide to decline Mr. Goldberg’s offer, but just keep in mind, that matzaivah is going to look awfully shabby when the rest of the block gets a face-lift.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, why did I pay $3k+ for perpetual care? Shouldn’t it be for exactly such a situation? Well the answer to that is no. Those fees will go towards care such as mowing the lawn, gate care, custodian, and other basic expenses.
Bottom line, the cost is at least $21,170.
So what can you do about it?
There are tzedakah cases, and Shomrai Haddas, or the Chevrah Kaddisha may give you a little break, (not the cemetery though, they have the best real estate scheme going, people moving in, but no one ever moving out).
But more practically the answer to the ‘who will pay for my funeral’?’, can be life insurance. The pain to a family of losing a loved one will not be diminished by a few extra dollars in the bank, but not having to worry about how to cover the cost of the kivurah or who will arrange the gofundme campaign for the family, will certainly let the mourners mourne, and focus on the life event at hand. We are so worried about the dignity of the dead (kavod hames) but people often neglect the dignity of those left behind. Where is the dignity to a spouse and children that have to beg the community for funds to live on? The cause is a good one, but how many charity campaigns should we ask our community to support? A problem so easily avoided by parents making sure to have life insurance. So please, if you don’t have it yet, get it now and anything is better than nothing. Make sure it’s a policy that you can pay for, consistently, don’t ever let it lapse. If you already have a policy, make sure you keep it, don’t let it lapse. How many stories have you heard about the guy who only ever forgot to mail that last check before he passed, and poof! There goes the whole policy!
Life insurance policies should be bought young, a newlywed should be able to get 500k-1m in life insurance for as little as $20-$50 a month. A very small price to pay if it ever is hoyah los sihiyah needed.
I will end this informative article with an even more practical section, Reference numbers:
First, Local Life Insurance agents, buy local people, support our own community:
Berel Bronstein – 347-244-2466
Levi Schapiro – 917-279-6441
Mendel Tzfasman – 917-586-7176
Mendy Goldberg – 845-825-0531
Oren Popper – 917-720-6565
Shloime Zellermaier – 718-501-9817
Shmuel Wolvovsky – 646-330-2014
Yossi Marozov – 718-713-5955
Moshe Kupfer – 917-847-2673
Dovid Chesney – 917-370-1578
Avi Neparsteck – 917-536-7260
Achiezer Langsam – 718-730-5089
Shmuel Langsam – 718-493-8662
Shomrai Haddas Chaples: 718-436-8700
Old Montefiore Cemetery: 718-528-1700
Greenbaum Monuments: (718) 436-2411
Shimon Goldberg: (718) 909-1367
With blessing of Vihokitzu viraninu shochnai ofor, im bias moshiach bikarov Mamosh, (although don’t expect any refund for a plot no longer needed).
If you have found this article informative or have had different experiences than those portrayed here, please send us feedback to news@CrownHeights.info.