Death and Mourning

At BJ, we understand the difficulty and sensitivity around the subject of death. We provide support to all members of our community during this transition.

Notifying the BJ Community

Please contact Billie Di Stefano if a BJ family member has recently passed away. When we are informed about the death of a BJ family member, a condolence email is sent to the BJ community as soon as possible. Information about funeral arrangements and shiva plans will also be sent, if desired. An announcement also appears in the weekly Kol Jeshurun.

Funeral Services

BJ recommends Plaza Jewish Community Chapel because it is the only non-profit and communally owned chapel serving the Jewish Community in New York. It also offers a host of useful resources including cemetery and synagogue directions, bereavement services, Jewish funeral customs, funeral etiquette, as well as practical and spiritual pre-planning materials.

Cemetery Plots

BJ owns cemetery plots in the King Solomon Memorial Park section of the West Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, NJ as well as in Beth Olam Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens.

Our staff and volunteers are ready to consult with you on the possibilities that are available and to arrange visits to our two cemeteries at a convenient moment. Interest-free payment plans are available for up to 24 months (with the deed transferring after payment in full). For more information, questions, or to set up a private meeting, please email cemetery@bj.org.

About the Cemeteries

For more than 4,000 years, we have assumed the sacred responsibility begun by our ancestors to provide a place for the burial of our departed loved ones.

 

At B’nai Jeshurun, this obligation began when our congregation was founded in 1825, with a small plot for burials on West 32nd Street. In 1851, with our sister congregations Shearith Israel and Shaaray Tefilah, we purchased 12 acres of Brooklyn/Queens land to found Beth Olam Cemetery. Many prominent people are buried at Beth Olam, including Uriah Levy (founder of the B’nai Jeshurun Education Institute and the first Jewish commodore of the US Navy), Emma Lazarus, Benjamin Cardozo, BJ Rabbis Morris Jacob Raphall and Judah Magnes, and Sam Spiegel, producer of On the Waterfront and Lawrence of Arabia. Alongside these and other famous people, many generations of BJ families are buried there. BJ is now able to continue this tradition, having just confirmed the availability of two new sections of land with more than 200 burial plots at Beth Olam (an extremely rare find in the five boroughs, where no new cemetery land will ever be approved).

 

In addition to the new plots at Beth Olam, a generous benefactor donated a section of King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton, NJ, to BJ, more than forty years ago, allowing new generations of our members to plan ahead for the eventualities we all face.

 

To that end, we encourage our community to explore the options available and to make arrangements before being confronted by the grief of loss. As we plan for the legal and emotional exigencies attendant to the end of life, we hope that the purchase of burial plots will be part of that effort, and that doing so in the context of our BJ community will bring comfort.

Beth Olam Cemetery — Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, NY

Beth Olam is a remarkable, beautiful, and historic place, having recently received designation as a National Historic Site. Situated on the Brooklyn/Queens border just off the Jackie Robinson Parkway, the cemetery gates and the Shearith Israel chapel at Beth Olam were designed by Calvert Vaux (Central, Prospect, and Fort Greene Parks, as well as Jefferson Market Courthouse) and are believed to be his only religious structures. Many of the mausoleums at Beth Olam feature stained glass windows attributed to Tiffany and LaFarge and cast bronze doors, considered to be of significant historical and artistic significance. Additionally, many gravesites feature dramatic funerary sculpture evoking broken classical columns, trees, and other marvels.

 

After some years of benign neglect, the three congregations have been working closely together to maintain and restore the property in an effort we call “common ground.”

 

A moratorium on new cemetery land within the five boroughs has made burial options extremely rare and costly. The New York Times wrote in 2010 that costs of scarce plots in NYC cemeteries “have more than tripled in less than a decade.” A quick survey of current prices shows $12-14,000 for a single plot at Greenwood, singles at Woodlawn begin at $7,000, with family plots ranging from $65,000 to an astounding $1.5 million. Burial plots at Beth Olam are available to BJ members at a price of $7,200 each, plus the costs associated with interment.

King Solomon Memorial Park — Clifton, NJ

BJ also holds a section at King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton New Jersey. Located approximately 10 miles from the Lincoln Tunnel, we maintain 400 plots within the larger, beautifully manicured park-like setting. The cemetery houses a 40-person chapel and is located near a hotel, restaurants, and other services convenient for out-of-town visitors. In the last few years, a number of BJ members have purchased plots at King Solomon but many location choices remain available within our section. Prices for burial plots at King Solomon are currently $1,500 each, plus the cost of internment.

Hevra Kadisha (Comfort & Support for Mourners)

BJ clergy, staff, and volunteers work together to support our members during times of loss. The volunteers in our Hevra Kadisha provide the following resources and support to members of the community following a death:

  • Perform tahara (preparation of the body for burial)
  • Assure a minyan will be present to say kaddish when a shiva takes place in Manhattan
  • Provide escorts for mourners into Kabbalat Shabbat services
  • Contact the family with a check-in call at the time of Sholshim (30 days after death) and prior to the High Holy Days and Pesah

BJ also sends a condolence platter to the family and provides siddurim, kippot, and a havdalah set for shiva minyanim in Manhattan.

To get involved, please contact co-chairs Sharon Anstey, Bob Gruenspecht, and Rabbi Eva Sax-Bolder.

A Guide For Mourners

To review BJ’s Guide For Mourners, please download the PDF here.

We Are Here For You

Our rabbis and staff are here to provide comfort, counseling, guidance, and support with funeral, burial, shiva, and other arrangements.

To obtain assistance, BJ members should call 212-787-7600 as soon as possible. During office hours, press 1 to speak to the Life Cycles Manager. After hours, listen for the prompt to hear the phone number of the rabbi on call.

For more information, please contact Billie Di Stefano.