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Beth Israel Funeral and Burial FAQ

What happens when someone dies?  How do they get buried?  Whom do I call?

There are three organizations that need to be involved.  The first is the mortuary.  The mortuary picks up the body, prepares it for burial, acquires the casket, and transports the body/casket to synagogue (or directly to graveside) for the funeral service and then to the grave. In addition, the mortuary is the primary coordinator for all elements of the funeral:  they coordinate with the rabbi and with the cemetery for you. They do other coordination such as obituaries and death certificates. The second organization is the cemetery where you purchased plot(s).  The cemetery needs to see the paperwork proving that you own the grave, and then needs to be prepaid to dig (and refill) the grave. They have additional paperwork to sign.  The third organization is the synagogue (and the rabbi), who arrange for the synagogue announcements and for shivah.

What if I don’t have a plot?    

You can purchase plots directly through Beth Israel for the Beth Israel Memorial Garden section at Washtenong Memorial Park by contacting the Beth Israel office.  You have the option of either in the Jewish-only section or the Interfaith section.

Are there any mortuaries that you recommend?

Ira Kaufman Chapel.
Dorfman Chapel.
Hebrew Memorial Chapel.

What if the death was out of town?

You should make the mortuary in the town of burial the main mortuary (not the mortuary out of town). Contact them and they will arrange for the body to be flown to Detroit so they can pick it up.  This is not normally an excessive expensive.

On what days can funerals occur?

Funerals may not occur on Shabbat and holidays.  In addition, while Sunday burials are permitted, both Washtenong and Arborcrest memorial parks –which house Beth Israel sections– have a prohibitive surcharge of several thousand dollars in order to accommodate a Sunday burial.  For this reason, please expect that funerals will not take place during the weekend.  While this is not optimal, it is the situation of Jewish burial within Ann Arbor, and it is out of our control.

How long is there between death and burial?

While Jewish law encourages quick burial when possible, the American system (unlike in Israel) is largely not accommodating to the traditional norm. Typically, burial takes place within three days, though when there is an intervening weekend, it might be four days.  For a Thursday night death, Monday is the likely funeral date.

What are the approximate costs of each element?

This is meant to be a helpful guide with approximations for services that can change over time:
Cemetery plot $2,100 (BIC members)
Basic mortuary services run around $3,200.  In addition, one orders the casket and the burial vault from the mortuary.  A plain pine box casket runs around $1,400, and a kosher vault approximately $900.
The cemetery's opening/closing fees run around $2,300, plus around $300 for placing the vault.
The Rabbi's honorarium (only for relatives of members, not for members themselves) is approximately $500.  There is no Rabbinic fee for the burial of current members.
Gravestone markers start at about $3,500.

From whom do I buy a gravestone?

For burials at Arborcrest, we recommend buying the gravestone from the mortuary. Members have recommended working with Arnet's Monuments, a local company that produces gravestones.
For burials at Washtenong, we recommend buying the gravestone from Washtenong.

What should be written on the gravemarker?

There is no established rule.  Most common is the name in Hebrew and in English, and the birth and death dates.  You might wish to peruse gravestones in our sections at Arborcrest and Washtenong to get a sense of the options.

Are there any rules about what the gravemarker can look like?

Yes. The cemeteries and mortuaries will inform you of the parameters.

Does Beth Israel allow the burial of cremains?

Beth Israel, upon the recommendation of the rabbi, prioritizes the Jewish law that the remains of Jewish bodies must be buried.  While Jewish law prohibits cremation, nevertheless we assert that the "remains" must be buried regardless.  In order that we not provide financial incentive for cremation, and in order that we not publicize a halakhic violation, cremains may only be interred in full size graves, and the rabbi does not officiate in the presence of cremains.  We allow their interment in the Interfaith section, to honor the expectations of those buried in the Jewish-only section prior to our change in policy.  

What is an unveiling and how does it work?

Because Jewish custom involves burial before a gravemarker can be prepared and installed, the gravemarker is ordered and installed in the months following the burial. (One does not wait for the day of the unveiling to have it installed.)  It became a custom for family members to visit the grave once it has been installed, largely to mark another step in the process, another step forward into renewed life and comforting memories.  This special visit together is called “an unveiling” (even if some have visited already).  It is an optional custom. Some Sephardim prefer to do this visit at the end of the Sheloshim period, and some Ashkenazim prefer to do this at the end of 11 or 12 months, or near/on the Yahrzeit.  The truth is that it can be done anytime, and should be scheduled to accommodate family members.  The rabbi is normally invited to join you.  There is no need to call the cemetery (and you are advised not to).

Tue, June 25 2024 19 Sivan 5784