Calgary Chevra Kadisha: The story behind the cost of a funeral

By Susan Dvorkin and Harold Lipton

(Calgary) – The Chevra Kadisha of Calgary has always been a proponent of pre-purchasing a burial plot in advance of need, as this frees the grieving family from making some difficult decisions at a time of great stress. It relieves the family of the decision of where the deceased wishes their final resting place to be, and it also eases one of the financial burdens of the total funeral cost.

As a not for profit society, the Chevra Kadisha is Calgary’s only community organization dedicated to providing end of life care to all members of the Jewish faith, regardless of denomination, affiliation, or financial situation. Even as the cost of living has steadily grown over the years, the Chevra has not raised its fees for over twenty years. Unfortunately, inflation has caught up with us and reluctantly we have had to raise our fees to keep up with the rising costs of providing service.

The fee to reserve a plot in our 37th Street cemetery remains the same for now at $5000 and again, we encourage the community to consider pre-purchasing their plot to ease some of the emotional and financial burden on the family at the time of loss. As this fee will undoubtedly rise in the future, it makes financial sense to reserve a plot now.  Payment plans for reserved plots can be arranged at the time of reservation to aid in the purchase.  The fee for pre-purchased plots does not include actual funeral costs at the time of burial.

Funeral costs include fees for services that are contracted out and over which the Chevra has no control. These include transportation of the deceased to the chapel and later to the cemetery, opening and closing a grave, the officiant’s fee, and the fee for the Shomer (guardian). These costs can run up to $5000 and become due very shortly after burial. In the past, the Chevra covered these costs and then billed the family later. These costs are also rising, and since the Chevra cannot be expected to carry them indefinitely, we now must ask families for a deposit at the time a funeral is planned or within seven days of burial in order to ensure our contractors are paid in a timely fashion.

The remaining fees are for those services provided directly by the Chevra Kadisha and include professional and administration fees, the cost of a casket and tahara (preparation of the deceased for burial) and perpetual care of the cemetery. These costs may total approximately $7,000 and are invoiced to the family after the shloshim (30 day) period of mourning has concluded. These fees do not include the cost of purchasing and installing a monument, which remains the sole responsibility of the family.

Before a monument can be installed, a permit must be purchased from the Chevra Kadisha, and the funeral account must be made current. All monument maintenance, including repairs, are the sole responsibility of the family.  It is recommended that families delay monument installation for up to a year to permit the ground to settle properly, and after installation, to periodically inspect their monuments to ensure they are in good repair.

A survey of other Jewish communities in Canada has indicated that, even with these increases, our fees remain very comparable to other jurisdictions.  Terms of payment can be discussed with the funeral planner.

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