More Jewish families opting for cremation

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m certainly not an expert on the subject of faith preference and burial customs because the community that I served was, I’m guessing, at least 95% Christian of those that practiced faith.


However, I know some of the history since as before Vatican II in 1963 cremation was banned by the Roman Catholic church, and I’ve always noticed the Jewish custom of burying the body.


So, it was interesting for me to come upon this article in Forward entitled “More and more Jews are choosing cremation.  These rabbi’s aren’t happy about it”.  I’ve always thought that those of Jewish faith practiced earth burial almost exclusively.  Evidently, I am a little behind the times as according to the article, Rabbi Elchonon Zohn,  . . “who is Orthodox and the founder and director of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha, or Jewish burial societies, said that based on reports from members, about half of American Jews who die are cremated. It is growing “by leaps and bounds,” he said.”


The article makes this statement, “What is clear across movements is that an increasing number of Jews are opting for cremation. There are no hard numbers on this. But rabbis, Jewish funeral directors and others who work closely with bereaved families are estimating numbers not far behind those for Americans in general.”


The article also makes this statement about cremation in the Jewish faith, “A survey of the four major Jewish movements — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist — shows that all discourage cremation, some more strongly than others. All also indicate that there are rabbis within them who will take part in a memorial service for someone who was cremated.”


Funeral Director Daily take:  This is a really good article, but since I’m far from an expert on the subject, I don’t want to comment too much, but I would suggest that you read the article because I found it very informative.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

In general, the article brings out some issues that, I believe, have helped make cremation so popular in the United States.  One of those compelling reasons is cost of an earth burial as compared to the cost of cremation.  One rabbi points out in the article that in his area the cost is about $10,000 for an earth burial compared to about $2,700 for a cremation.


This is not mentioned in the article but is a personal observation that I had while serving families in the 1980s and 1990s when cremation in my area was really growing.  I noticed that there were Christian families who had a strong inclination to earth burial but were thinking about cremation.  Those families, at that time, really struggled with their decision as it related to their faith and cremation as well as struggled with doing something (cremation) that was somewhat out of the mainstream (earth burial) for their church.


Those people were really sincere in their struggles.  I did notice, however, that eventually when that family made a decision to go ahead with cremation that decision seemed to “break the ice” for the rest of the extended family in the future.  In essence, they went with the cremation decision and the results of the services and/or memorial were acceptable to them.  When that happened, the first cremation in a family, we found it almost inevitable that the future deaths in the family had no reluctance to choose cremation in the future . . . and they almost always did going forward.


I think that is a realization that has happened and is one reason we will see cremation and other non-burial dispositions continue to grow as compared to what was known as the historical and traditional earth burial methods.  Today’s article shines a light on that fact that even religion and its traditions, going forward, may not be able to stop that trend.


Read Original Article at: Funeral Director Daily

  Category: News

Are the days of helping each other over


Throughout my entire career in a small community, the funeral homes and the cemeteries helped each other out.  We had somewhat of a mutual dependence on each other that helped us both.

For instance, when our funeral home served a family we would always suggest earth burial or entombment for the full body casketed funeral as well as for the cremation that would need a place for permanent memorialization.  We were happy to send the family over to the, mostly non-profit, cemeteries to select a lot, crypt, or niche, and pay the cemetery for the property selected as well as the fees that might be associated with the opening and closing costs.

The cemetery was very happy to receive the lead and the revenue for the services rendered in relation to this death.  Never did they try to sell the family a burial vault, casket, or urn to go with the cemetery space and services.  And, quite frankly, if the cemetery had a monument sales representative, we stayed out of their way in that business as well.  In many instances, the funeral home evened collected the cemetery checks from the consumer and just handed them to the cemetery so they did not have collection issues.

That all worked really well in the days of the ever-popular and dominant full body casketed burial.  As cremations grew, some cemeteries did not make the improvements with columbariums, scattering gardens, and other options that left those cemeteries unpopular with cremation clients.  Eventually, many cremation clients just started to forget about permanent memorialization and many small cemeteries, now doing a much lower number of burials, started having financial issues which in many cases led to poor upkeep and maintenance.

And, I don’t think we funeral directors helped much either.  When families choose cremation, many of us just got to the point of not sending them to the cemetery because so many declined to go.  They hadn’t decided what to do with the remains. . . .many of which went home and became a permanent fixture in a closet.

It has now got to the point that there are some of us out here who are traditional memorialization people, but see the practice fading far from its formerly universal acceptance.  We see the value to society and history of permanent memorialization that has somewhat gone by the wayside. . . and in many cases caused cemetery financial deterioration.  See herefor a story I saw on that last week.  It’s stories like this that make the “sell of permanent memorialization” pretty difficult today.

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that there are cemeteries with lots of attributes that make memorialization in those cemeteries still highly desirable.  However, for every Rose Hills Cemetery (Los Angeles) or Lakewood Cemetery (Minneapolis) that fit that description there are a hundred cemeteries in states all over the country that cannot finance upkeep anymore and become more and more run-down.

When you contrast that perception with the articles about the new ways of death care such as this article announcing California’s first consumer related alkaline hydrolysis unit, you can see the uphill battle that many cemeteries now face in the fight for new lot-owners.  And, quite frankly, the fight is not just for new lot-owners, but for the current lot-owners who are willing to just leave their lots for one of the new disposition methods — I just encountered one on the golf course last week — he and his wife are now choosing cremation with scattering in part because of the condition of the cemetery where his lots are owned.

Losing lot-owners and not selling new lots is just going to make many non-profit cemeteries financial outlook more precarious.

I don’t have any answers but there is a lot at stake when consumers choose no permanent memorialization. . . . . there is no burial vault sold, there is no urn vault sold, there is no monument sold, there is no columbarium being filled up. . . and it goes on and on.  Just like the major casket companies knowing that they are probably going to lose 1-3% of annual unit volume in future (non-covid) years due to declining earth burial, so too will those in other aspects of permanent memorialization.

I continue to press for more permanent memorialization by client families.  I think it is really important for future civilization. . . .permanent memorialization goes back a long way. . .the pyramids are some of the first permanent memorialization concepts built.  I’m under no false assumptions though. . . . permanent memorialization is and will continue to be under siege.

However, if you are a cemetery owner or board member isn’t it worth an effort to see how you can make your cemetery more attractive to permanent memorialization. There are people who can help.  I’ve told you about the Everlasting Urn and now I’ve discovered another company, Columbarium by Design — makers of the Eternal Urn.  Take a look . . . .maybe you will get some ideas.

Read Original Article at: Funeral Director Daily


  Category: News

Columbarium by Design is committed to listen to its clients and the families they serve

An interview with Gerardo Garcia • Columbarium by Design



Inspired by the clear need for modern and appealing columbaria and cremation gardens, Columbarium by Design is committed to listen to its clients and the families they serve. They advise businesses on the best designs and help them create relevant and lasting columbaria, mausoleums, and cremation gardens, offering marketing services that allow for a  return on investment in the shortest time possible. Columbarium by Design is truly a one-stop-shop.

Q: Please describe the services your company offers.

“At Columbarium by Design, we design, manufacture, install, and construct columbaria, mausoleums, and cremation gardens.”

Q: How did your company get established?

During my tenure as the CAO of Perches Funeral Group, I realized how fast cremation was growing with a notably low retention rate of cremated remains. I realized that part of the reason is that what is offered at cemeteries is not entirely appealing to current generations. We need to please a range of tastes, from Baby Boomers—who are modern, well educated, well off, and want nothing to do with what their traditionalist parents liked—to Millennials—who are very progressive and need to be attracted by sophisticated and contemporary designs. So, at the end of 2015, I embarked with my wife and daughter on a year-long road trip around the country to research the market and visit as many cemeteries as I could and began to exhibit at the major industry conventions to start getting my name out. This is how Columbarium by Design was born.

Q: What is unique about your company?

We truly have the most versatile made-in-America niche system in the market. It can be incorporated into any indoor or outdoor, existing or new, structure and to any design. We steer away from the traditional “square” granite-clad designs and ask our clients what they what us to do—not the other way around. Our cabinets are formed from durable and lasting materials that won’t crack, break, or deform with time, ground settlements or weight. Our constructions use the best materials and techniques available, allowing us to deliver a modern and long-lasting structure. But we don’t just stop there. With every project, we produce an in-depth return-on-investment outlook and offer marketing services that allow clients to get their return on investment in the shortest time possible.

Q: How has the growing demand for cremation affected what you offer?

It has been as tremendously positive as it has been challenging. With cremations on the rise, a lot of cemeteries have the need to increase their cremation memorialization options, and, of course, this translates into more business opportunities for us. But ironically, the great majority of cremated remains don’t end up in a cemetery or columbarium. This fact is extremely challenging for the industry in general. I think that there is a lot of work to be done and that as an industry we have a duty to educate and guide our families better in this respect. I also believe that, as I have mentioned, we need to develop more appealing columbaria, cremation gardens, and mausoleums to attract current generations and entice them to keep their loved ones’ cremated remains in an attractive and cool setting where future generations can come to visit and honor them, rather than taking them home or having them scattered and lost in time.

Q: How have clients responded to your products, company or services?

We are a young company but blessed with great acceptance and enthusiasm. We are not reinventing the wheel, but we do focus on creating unique and cool designs for a very competitive price—and our clients are loving it. We strive to provide a very personal and passionate service.

Q: What are some challenges that your marketing strategy solved for you?

We believe that word of mouth and satisfied customers are the best marketing tools out there, but we also follow conventional practices. Marketing comes with a high price tag and, after spending our fair share testing various methods, we have settled on what works the best for us. Our main focus is on our catalog and our website, which are frequently updated. Conventions and expos are definitely where we invest the most funding, showing up sincere, eager, and professional with an attractive and illustrative booth. We also invest in the most relevant print magazines in the industry, complementing these purchases with online ads via association websites and supply links. Lastly, we provide event sponsorship from time to time to keep the brand recognition momentum and support the associations we proudly belong to.

Q: Are there any new products or projects you’d like to share?

This year, we introduced the only true in-ground niche in the market. It is a fully contained niche, inserted in the ground and covered with a granite lid. It can house any type of urn, meaning families have more freedom to choose a vessel to their liking. Additionally, as with an in-wall niche, the urns are fully accessible after being inurned. The niche can be installed anywhere you can dig a hole, requires no maintenance, won’t break or deform under pressure, and is proudly made in the U.S.A.

Q: What do you value most about your CANA membership?

Since day one, being directly related to the cremation market, I knew I had to be a member of CANA. I value everything CANA has to offer, from great member services to the invaluable research and studies that help us measure and asses our current markets and outlook. C


Gerardo Garcia was born in 1970 and raised in Mexico. As a young man, he worked for his father in the family cotton business, becoming a third-generation independent cotton broker. After 30 years in the cotton industry, in 2012 Gerardo was offered a rare opportunity and accepted the Chief Administrative Officer position with Perches Funeral Homes and Cemeteries, out of El Paso, Texas. He now serves as the Corporate Director while running Columbarium by Design. During his time with Perches Funeral Group, Gerardo was inspired to embark into the business of designing, manufacturing, and constructing columbaria and mausoleums, and in 2014, he founded Columbarium by Design, LLC. The company has completed eight projects in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Ohio, and is currently working on nine new assignments in New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, and Colorado.


Sample Columbarium by Design projects. Top: Horan & McConaty Rocky Mountain Memorial Park, Centennial, CO; Middle: Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum Niche In-Fills, Albuquerque, NM; Bottom: Santa Fe Memorial GardensChapel of Light Niche Walls, Santa Fe, NM.

  Category: News

Another Successful Project Completion!! Santa Fe Memorial Gardens (Santa Fe, NM)


Another Successful Project Completion!! On April 20th we had the Grand Opening of Jardin Familiar Cremation Garden at Santa Fe Memorial Gardens in Santa Fe, NM. Thank you Tim Rivera, it has been great working with you and your team. And a HUGE THANK YOU to my team, Bradyn, Luis, Tony R., Mario, Tony L., Erin, Juliana and Paola.

  Category: News

Hamilton cemetery adjusting to big jump in cremations with new building

We are excited to announce that last Thursday April 25th we broke ground at St. Stephen’s Cemetery in Hamilton, OH for the construction of a New Cremation Garden commissioned by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and St. Julie Billiart Catholic Parish. I want to thank my friends at St. Julie for making this happen and working with us through the design process. Steve, Ed, Michele, Father Rob, Ann, Betty and Zach, Many Thanks!!

This Cremation Garden will truly be unique and will proudly serve Hamilton’s community for generations to come. Stay tuned for advances in construction and development completion.

About 20 to 25 percent of the cemetery’s deceased are cremated remains, but within about a decade, it could be closer to 50-50 split between cremations and in-ground burials, said Ed Schellenbach, president of the board at St. Julie Billiart, which oversees the independent cemetery at 1314 Greenwood Ave.

“It’s been a project in the making for some time,” said Schellenbach, who added the project started 2 1/2 years ago. “But it’s the right way to go. It’s an improvement for the area and for the cemetery itself.”

The cemetery has a columbarium, as well as a cremation garden. But because of he growth in cremations, a new columbarium, which is a final resting place for urns, is needed. The new columbarium will accommodate thousands of urns when the five-phase project is completed. Phase 1 will take three to four months to complete, weather permitting, and subsequent phases will be built as the demand warrants.

Sante Fe, New Mexico-based Columbarium by Design is the developer of the St. Stephens project. Gerardo Garcia, company president and CEO, said cremations make up 60 percent of interred remains across the country, and it’s growing. The benefit of a columbarium, he said, is to “safeguard the remains, the memories and legacies of people.”

“A lot of cremains go to a mantel, and then a closet and then a garage and then many, many times sadly to trash and they get lost in time,” he said. “And here with a cremation garden and columbarium, a person’s remains will be safeguarded by professionals and that’s where the legacy of this person will be memorialized. They’re not going to get lost.”

St. Stephens cremation interments have increased year over year. In 2016, 19 percent of burials were cremation. That increased to 26 percent in 2017 and 28 percent in 2018.

Over the next two decades, the number of cremations is expected to increase by nearly 30 percent, according to the 2018 report from the National Funeral Directors Association. By 2030, 12 states will see an 80 percent cremation rate, according to the report.

Father Rob Muhlenkamp, pastor at St. Julie Billiart and a member of the board, said cremated remains of Catholics are interred on holy ground “to honor something that’s sacred.”

“The body was made whole through baptism, so you want to give (the body) its due,” he said.

Features Image By: Michael D. Pitman

  Category: News