Row over stone setting charge

By Leon Symons, March 26, 2009

The United Synagogue burial chief has denied claims that it is asking mourners to pay £150 for the use of a prayer hall for Sunday stone settings.

Borehamwood Synagogue member Jeffrey Permutt alleges that the charge was specified when he requested information about arranging a family stone setting.

But head of burial Melvyn Hartog maintains: “The charge is not for the hire of the hall. It goes towards the costs we incur bringing in staff on Sundays, which is when everyone wants a stone setting.”

Mr Permutt said he had rung the burial office at Bushey “after my sister-in-law told me she spoke to a woman who said there would be a charge of £150 for the hire of the prayer hall. I called the office and the woman told me the same thing — in fact I rang twice and got the same answer. I have never heard of such a charge and nor has anyone else I have spoken to.

“To me this is hitting people when they’re down. They may be upset and so won’t query something like this. You don’t need people to dig a grave. All you need is a minister to perform a service, which can be done at the graveside. This is just another way of extracting money from the community.”

Mr Hartog said the £150 Sunday charge was levied as “we have to bring staff in and pay them overtime. In the summer we have stone settings starting as late as 5.30pm, when staff are on duty until seven in the evening. The charge during the week is £50.

“I have spoken to the staff member in Bushey and they maintain they did not say the charge was for the hire of the prayer hall.”

Last updated: 2:33pm, March 26 2009