After 35 years at his family’s Menorah Chapels in Millburn, funeral director Mark Ross and his wife, Robin, have gone out on their own, opening Ross’ Shalom Chapels.
The new enterprise shares space with Bradley & Son Funeral Homes at their locations in Springfield, Chatham, and Whippany. The business officially opened Sept. 7.
“We’re in three places in the heart of the Jewish community. Morristown is really underserved,” Mark Ross said in a telephone interview. “It’s an interesting experience to start again. We can do everything the way we think it should be done.”
Ross’ Shalom Chapels joins the Jewish funeral businesses that survived or followed the merger or demise of funeral homes serving the old Newark Jewish community.
Menorah Chapels at Millburn, Inc., in Union was founded by Ross’ late father, Herb, and Rudolph Kindel in 1975. It is still a family-owned and -operated business.
Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel in Livingston is owned by the national funeral corporation known as Dignity Memorial.
In 2010, Jason Apter, a fourth-generation funeral director, opened JL Apter Memorial Chapels, a not-for-profit funeral business serving Morris, Sussex, and Essex counties and sharing space with existing non-Jewish funeral homes.
Morris County Jews have traditionally been served by Gutterman Bros. Funeral Directors in Lake Hiawatha, a business that started in Manhattan and also has a Bayonne location.
Asked why he decided to leave Menorah Chapels, Ross said, “We’re better off dwelling in the present.” He acknowledged a disagreement over management styles with his sister, Karen Ross Kerstein, and Kindel. “It was just time for a parting of ways,” said Ross.
In a phone interview with Kerstein and Kindel — who will continue to own and operate Menorah Chapels — Kerstein said, “It was time for Mark and Menorah Chapels at Millburn to end our professional relationship.”
Ross is pleased with his relationship with the non-Jewish Bradley & Son. It helps that most Jewish funerals are in the morning, he said, while most of the Bradley & Son clients use the space in the afternoon and evening.
Arrangements have been made to perform tahara, the traditional washing of the body, at the Springfield location through Rabbi Shmuel Bogomilsky of Mount Sinai Congregation in the Ivy Hill section of Newark and at the Whippany location. Each location has areas to accommodate shmira, the traditional “guarding” of the body prior to burial.
A number of local rabbis took part in ceremonies affixing mezuzot at the three locations, including Rabbis Mark Mallach of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael, Chaim Marcus of Congregation Israel, and Joshua Goldstein of Temple Sha’arey Shalom, all in Springfield; Rabbi Avi Friedman of the Summit Jewish Community Center; and Rabbi Donald Rossoff of Temple B’nai Or in Morristown.
Ross said he hopes to open more locations over time.
“I’m much happier running my own business,” he said.