'We paid burial fees for 45 years yet I had to fund an £8,000 funeral'

Burial society rules leave distraught wife out of pocket


A widow who has contributed to synagogue burial schemes for 45 years has been left distraught and out of pocket after being told she would receive just £450 towards the £8,000 cost of her husband’s funeral.

Sharon and Ronnie Kalmus were members of  Southend and Westcliff Hebrew Congregation  for 12 years, having moved to the coast from Barkingside, where they had belonged to Ilford United Synagogue from 1972.

Last year, the couple moved to Devon to be close to family but continued to pay burial fees to the Southend shul.

When Mr Kalmus died suddenly in January, the family decided they wanted him buried in a Devon Jewish cemetery and a local Orthodox official connected to Exeter Synagogue was extremely helpful.

After the shivah, Mrs Kalmus contacted Southend and Westcliff to ask for burial fees to be reimbursed but was informed that as her husband was not buried at the Southend community’s cemetery, that would not be possible.

In correspondence seen by the JC, shul president Derek Silverstone wrote that it would send £450 as a “good will gesture” to Mrs Kalmus, continuing: “SWHC is an independent organisation. We have discontinued any transfer scheme set up between the United Synagogue and ourselves.

“The discontinuation was due to the lack of agreement as to how much should be paid when people transfer between US and SWHC and vice versa.”

Mrs Kalmus told the JC: “I have found the whole situation absolutely disgusting.

“I spoke to the office at Southend shul to inform them of the loss of my dear husband and the decision to have him interred in Devon.

“But I was left extremely upset when a letter arrived to inform me that only £450, refunded by the United Synagogue, would be paid towards the funeral and nothing more.

“Ronnie and I had paid into a burial scheme in good faith for all those years. Over the 12 years I think we put in around £1,600. Then of course we were paying when we were members of Beehive Lane [Ilford] shul.”

Mrs Kalmus added: “I was devastated and hurt, especially at a time when I was trying to get over the loss of my beloved husband and put our financial affairs in order.
“I was not asking for money to spend on a holiday. I was simply asking for money to help towards the burial of my late husband.”

In a statement, Mr Silverstone said: “I am quite satisfied our community has not failed in its obligations in law, or morally, with regards its membership.”


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