On Oct. 19, the office of Assemblyman Gary Schaer issued a statement asserting that cemetery issues of Jewish concern in New Jersey were resolved and agreed to by multiple members of a communal committee (“Bergen rabbis on burial deal: Not so fast,” Nov. 1).
The North Jersey Board of Rabbis, New York Board of Rabbis, and Rabbinical Council of Bergen County have not signed on to any such agreement and deny reports that a resolution has been reached.
Rather, the matters most paramount to the rabbinic committee are still very much without resolution, namely:
• To ensure fairness and social consciousness to the areas of cemetery pricing and practices. Too many families in the New Jersey and New York Jewish communities have been unfairly price-gouged during a vulnerable and painful time in their lives. Others have felt oppressed by changing rules at cemeteries seen as burdensome. The [combined] rabbinic committee seeks to protect the interests of the greater community.
• To establish a change in the composition of the state cemetery board, which currently operates with a mandated majority membership made up of cemetery operators. It is imperative for a mechanism to exist that would allow for both bereaved families and cemetery operators of any faith or no faith to better communicate needs and issues as they arise. A state regulatory board should be impartial in appearance as well as in fact. The current composition of the Cemetery Board does not allow for such sense of impartiality. It should also be noted that the issues addressed by the rabbis are not, for the most part, exclusively Jewish concerns.
The NJBR, RCBC, and NYBR together approached the cemetery operators in 2008 and are appreciative of the areas of commonality that were identified during nearly two years of efforts to resolve the disputes.
During the coming days, the NJBR, NYBR, and RCBC will reach out to State Sen. Loretta Weinberg to renew support for legislative initiatives she has devised to promote equitable change within the cemetery industry that will benefit all sides and all constituencies.
At the same time, in order to better serve the interests of our shared Jewish community, these rabbinic bodies are eager to reconvene with the state’s cemetery operators in order to continue the process of finding common ground on the issues that brought them to the negotiating table in the first place.
Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner