Burial company planning to offer cheap Jewish funerals

By Simon Rocker, February 13, 2014

A London company is planning to launch an alternative Jewish burial society which will not require membership of a synagogue.

Normally, people have to pay hundreds of pounds to belong to a synagogue in order to be part of its burial scheme.

But County Group developers say that families would be able to join its independent scheme for as little as £240 a year, which would cover a plot, a headstone and maintenance.

It has bought 20 acres of green belt land close to the A1 in Barnet on which it hopes to open a cemetery later this year under the guidance of Rabbi Levi Sudak of Edgware Lubavitch.

A planning application has gone into Hertsmere borough council for prayer halls, a taharah house and landscaping for the site, which lies off Rowley Lane. If successful, the cemetery would have capacity for 15,000 plots.

Simon Patnick, County’s managing director, said: “It is a great location close to a huge Jewish population and synagogues. It will be maintained to the highest standards of halachah.”

He added: “We are trying to resurrect what used to be normal practice — to have an independent burial club.”

Rabbi Sudak confirmed that he had “agreed to be the halachic guide and overseer of the new cemetery project”.

The scheme, Rabbi Sudak said, would “give a solution to a variety of problems many people face because they don’t slot into the established community”.

A United Synagogue funeral for a person who is not a member of its burial society can cost around £12,500 — although the organisation will bury those whose family cannot afford it.

To belong to the US burial scheme costs a married couple £128 a year, on top of synagogue membership fees.

Asked whether the County scheme would undercut synagogue membership, Rabbi Sudak said: “I am here to help and to build. If I felt the project would hurt any of the organisations, I would not be involved. I believe there is space for this cemetery.”

Mr Patnick, who is a member of Radlett Synagogue, said that the company had been in discussions for several months with the Federation of Synagogues but negotiations had broken down.

“We are still talking with other leading Jewish organisations about coming into it,” he said.

Rabbi Sudak said that what appealed to him was “uniformity. All the stones will be the same size. Every person will be treated equally.”

Last updated: 7:45pm, February 13 2014