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Shaarey Zedek Synagogue- Cemetery Perpetual Care Update // COVID19

posted May 20,2020

[Editor's note: Below is a message sent out by Shaarey Zedek synagogue to its members advising that flowers will not be planted on graves this year given the unique situation of the coronavirus]

 

Dear Friends,

 

In our last message to the congregation sent out May 3rd we advised of the following: "An area yet to be determined will be the planting of flowers on our graves, as this requires a significant amount of money, time and manpower. The Board of Directors in conjunction with the Cemetery Committee will need to determine whether this should be a consideration for this year."

 

The Cemetery Committee met on May 11th, 2020 to discuss this matter. The Board of Directors met later May 11th, 2020 to determine a final resolution for this year.

 

Several factors needed to be considered before any final decision would be made on whether to proceed with the flower planting for this year. Factors that were part of the discussion included our Perpetual Care obligation to our congregation; the actual cost of purchasing the flowers; the cost of labour to plant and maintain the flowers; the overall expense of cemetery operations - Revenues/Expenses (now and going forward) in terms of our operational stability; the availability of the flowers; the number of additional employees required in terms of Government workplace guidelines; the status of our Perpetual Care Fund and the amount of revenue available.

 

The Perpetual Care Agreement states the following:

  • "The Perpetual Care shall include the planting of flowers, cutting of grass, changing the soil and sod, renovating of concrete (if same surrounds the plot), as determined necessary by the Cemetery Committee in its sole discretion."
  • The cost to purchase flowers to meet our current needs is approximately $33,000.
  • The cost of labour to plant the flowers is over $215,000 (based on 2019 expense).
  • The cost (Maintenance & Administration only) to operate our cemeteries in 2019 was $773,000 (This does not include funerals)
  • As we had not yet committed to the purchase of flowers this year, the question of availability is a potential factor.
  • Can we hire an additional temporary 14 employees as flower planters only, in addition to the already hired seasonal employees (grass cutters, maintenance, etc.) and stay within government guidelines as to maximum numbers allowed in close proximity in our workshop (current guidelines are 10 people).  
  • Our Perpetual Care Fund allows for the Cemetery to draw only the Interest generated annually to offset Perpetual Care expense. This year's revenue is projected to be approximately $245,000.

 

As the Cemetery operations are now a part of the overall Synagogue operations, determination of revenues and expenses based on current conditions are a significant consideration.

 

As one can see there were many points to consider. After a lengthy discussion and in consideration of the unique situation this year due to the Coronavirus, the Cemetery Committee agreed unanimously to suspend the purchase and planting of flowers for this year. However, the Cemetery Committee wanted to ensure that except for the flower planting for this year, the remainder of our obligations related to Perpetual Care be maintained. This includes grass cutting, replacing soil and sod, and renovations and repairs of concrete strips and borders, as well as other ongoing maintenance of the Cemetery to include, tree trimming, fence and road repairs, and general maintenance of all equipment and property related to the cemetery.

 

In addition, the Cemetery Committee agreed that any friends or families of those buried at our cemeteries be permitted to plant and maintain their own flowers, if they wish to do so. This recommendation was forwarded to the Board of Directors.

 

As indicated above, the Board met and had a lengthy debate and discussion regarding this topic. They all agreed that this was an extremely difficult decision to make. They all understood the financial ramifications and impact of this decision, while at the same time realizing the emotional aspect it would have on our congregation.

 

The board reviewed all the information presented and made the following motion:

 

"That in light of Covid-19 that we suspend the procurement and installation of flowers at our cemeteries for this year, with the understanding that individuals who wish to purchase, plant and maintain flowers at individual grave sites be allowed to do so." CARRIED

 

Based upon the above please be advised that for this year we will not be purchasing or planting flowers at our cemeteries.

 

However, the Board of Directors wanted to ensure that except for the flower planting for this year, the remainder of our obligations related to Perpetual Care be maintained. This includes grass cutting, replacing soil and sod, and renovations and repairs of concrete strips and borders, as well as other ongoing maintenance of the Cemetery which includes, tree trimming, fence and road repairs, and general maintenance of all equipment and property related to the cemetery.

 

As stated above we all understand the impact of this decision and how it may affect those with relatives and friends interred at our cemeteries. The Board is charged with both fiduciary and fiscal responsibilities for the short and long-term sustainability of our synagogue and cemeteries. We are fully aware that not all congregants will be pleased with this decision. During these unique times there will be difficult decisions to be made, and we want to assure you that our sole focus is to ensure the ongoing well-being of our Congregants, Synagogue and Cemeteries. Our goal is to emerge at the end of this pandemic a stronger and vibrant Congregation and Community.

 

Please remain safe and well. 

Frank Hechter
President
[email protected]

Ian Staniloff
Executive Director
[email protected]

Congregation Shaarey Zedek
561 Wellington Crescent   Winnipeg MB    R3M 0A6
204-452-3711  F 204-474-1184
hell[email protected]
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.