Widow's despair over extra costs to be buried in same cemetery as late husband

The woman, in her 80s, was stunned to be told that she would have to make a payment of £3,000 on top of her burial society subscription


A Stamford Hill widow has been in dispute for a decade with a burial society that is asking her to pay more to be buried in the same cemetery as her late husband.

The woman, in her 80s, who does not wish to be named, was married to him for more than 20 years. His first marriage had ended in divorce.

She had believed she would be buried with him in the Adath Yisroel Burial Society’s Cheshunt cemetery as his burial policy with the society covered dependents.

Shortly after his death in 2010, her oldest stepson — who with two of his siblings was executor of his father’s will — spoke to her about the burial. She recalled that he had said something to the effect that “Enfield [another Adath cemetery] was a more convenient place for them to travel to and quite a few family members were buried there”.

In the immediate aftermath of her husband’s death, “my mind was not on what he was saying… I was in a state of shock and disbelief at my life-changing loss… I was a zombie.”

In Adath circles, women generally do not go to funerals. But she was later dismayed to learn that her husband had been buried in what she described as a “men-only row” in Enfield, meaning that she could not be buried beside him.

“My identity as his wife was totally rubbished,” she said. “My late husband’s wishes were ignored and trashed.”

As a widow, she began to pay her own contributions to the burial society. But she was stunned to be told that even to be buried in the same cemetery, she would have to make a payment of £3,000 on top of her burial society subscription — a charge she has continued to challenge.

In 2012, an official of the society wrote to her to say that they had been told that she wanted a plot in “Eretz Yisroel” — to which she responded: “I have no knowledge of this whatsoever”.

In the same year, an official of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations informed her that the Adath Yisroel Burial Society [AYBS] “does not have contractual obligation to bury husband and wife together”.

But she remains firm in her belief that the society has a duty to bury her in Enfield without requiring an additional payment.

Two years ago, she protested to a rabbi from outside the UOHC who had tried to mediate, saying: “Why am I liable to pay for a plot in Enfield which I, a dependent, was forced to accept because neither I nor my husband had ever requested burial in Enfield?”

The rabbi responded: “No one doubts that your marriage was a happy one and it is indeed very likely that your late husband would have wanted you to be buried alongside him, with expenses to be paid from his estate.

“However, there is no explicit instruction to that effect in his will and in the absence of such an explicit instruction, neither the estate nor the heirs are under any obligation to pay for this.”

The AYBS told the JC that it could not discuss individual cases. The stepson would only comment: “The thing she should do is to go to a beth din.”

“Inconsolable” at the situation, the woman stressed: “It would have made no difference to me where my late husband was buried as long as I would be buried next to him.”

At the United Synagogue, head of burial Melvyn Hartog advised that burial arrangements should be clearly set out in advance to avoid problems.

“In any second marriage, it should be written down in the will what you would like to happen after the passing of yourself or your second spouse.

“This will avoid any issue as far as the children are concerned. To avoid any aggravation, it needs to be sorted in advance.”

He also recommended that if remarrying,  “put in the will the wording you’d like on your stone so that people are aware of your wishes. But also be aware that burial societies have existing policies which govern the wording.”

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