In the Jewish community it is not individuals that have to deal with the deceased, the community itself takes on this burden through the Chevrah Kadisha [Burial Society].
They will be responsible for cleaning and preparing the body, providing people to sit with the deceased prior to burial, providing the coffin, and the funeral itself.
The Chevrah Kadisha is usually provided for with subscriptions raised annually in that community. But it is also normal for them to provide for people who do not have the means to subscribe.
But what happens when the Community winds up?
- Cemeteries need upkeep
- Burials continue to be required
- People who have paid a burial subscription will want to maintain that benefit (if they move, its likely they would have to start from scratch and that would be financially prohibitive)
- Individuals and families will have purchased burial plots
- People often wish to be buried near to their loved ones
Case Study 1 – Preston
When Preston’s synagogue closed, the members moved and joined communities in neighbouring towns.
However there was a balance of funds remaining, added to which there was the proceeds from the sale of the synagogue building.
Together this provided an adequate amount to finance the upkeep of the cemetery and Ohel (funeral chapel), together with the ongoing costs of burials as they arose.
To enable this, the Preston Chevrah Kadisha maintained elected officers to oversee its finances and continued operation, even though these people were now members of other communities.
Case Study 2 – Sha’are Hayim Didsbury
The original cemetery for Sha’are Hayim is located in the district of Urmston. Theirs was part of a larger site with sections for other synagogues. Once the Sha’are Hayim section was full there was no room for further expansion. So the decision was taken to use a part of Southern Cemetery, which would be dedicated Jewish burials for Sha’are Hayim. It also had the benefit of being located very close to Didsbury itself.
However the downside of the move is that all funds have been directed at new site, with the consequence that there has been no maintenance at Urmston and it has fallen into decay.
Case Study 3 – Southport
From the early days of the Southport Jewish community, in the late 19th century, the local Council offered space for Jewish burials in its main cemetery.
The community expanded and by the end of the Second World War the total Jewish population of the town approached 5,000. A larger site with its own Ohel was established in a different position within the cemetery. The Council owns and maintains the cemetery, as well as providing the Sexton and grave diggers. A fee is paid to the Council for each burial that takes place.
Over the years, and through economic constrains, fees have increased. But it has also been the case that any non-resident individuals requiring burial would have to pay considerably higher fees, even if they had originally lived in Southport.
Whilst on the one hand the original cemetery site although unused it is still maintained by the Council (as likely will the current site in the future); on the other hand as people move away from the area they are left with the conundrum that there is little benefit to remaining part of the burial society because of the increased costs to non-residents.
The ongoing costs to the Burial Society, because of fee inflation, also pose a challenge in terms of affording burial arrangements for the remaining residents into the future, even as the community is finally wound up.