Rabbis, lawmakers, and cemeteries in Bergen County reached an agreement over longstanding disputes involving Sunday and holiday burials.
The agreement will allow for timely burial on cemetery workers’ holidays including Sundays, as well as on Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Beth Israel Cemetery, Cedar Park Cemetery, and Riverside Cemetery agreed to use their “best efforts” to open graves on Sundays and holidays so that observant Jews can bury relatives within 24 hours after death. But there was no agreement on the amount of fees owners can charge for work done when their employees are normally off duty.
Jewish law requires that burial take place as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. Burials are delayed on Shabbat and other holy days.
“All cemeteries have a Sunday surcharge,” said Mark Ross, owner of Ross’ Shalom Chapels in Whippany, Chatham, and Springfield. “There are some cemeteries that will open for a very large holiday fee, but for the most part, the cemeteries are closed on holidays.”
The North Jersey Board of Rabbis reached agreement with the three cemeteries Oct. 19.
The agreement was facilitated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and by two legislators, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Dist. 37) and Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Dist. 36).
The three cemeteries “are among the top five largest in New Jersey,” said Andrew Schwab, Schaer’s chief of staff. “We are hopeful that other cemeteries will take note of the agreement. These are problems that Jewish communities — Orthodox Jewish communities in particular — face across the country…. We will revisit the issue in six months and see whether the agreement has or has not been working.”