Finding Your Final Resting-Place
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Finding Your Final Resting-Place

There are many options for Jewish burial “real estate.” Reserving pre-need can save money and last minute stress for heirs. But there’s a lot to learn.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Crest Lawn features Civil War history, elevated views of the city, and beautiful Jewish sections.
Crest Lawn features Civil War history, elevated views of the city, and beautiful Jewish sections.

Our parents seldom spoke of it. Many still consider it “bad luck” to do so. But Baby Boomers are doing their due diligence in shopping for a final resting place, a burial plot.

After finalizing the obvious — should I be buried with my parents back home? what if I have no spouse? where does the second wife go? does synagogue membership matter? — shopping for plots is similar to picking out other commodities: pay early and save; buy bigger packages and save; interest and credit terms, materials for markers — the list goes on. It’s reassuring that Atlanta is replete with options for Jewish burial and kind, knowledgeable cemetery representatives (in some case, owners) willing to help customers navigate the complex process.

Addressed here are only cemetery and land options. Expenses for the Jewish process prior (through a funeral home) are not included and could add several thousand more dollars to the bill. All prices listed here are for one individual.

Arlington Jewish transactions are handled by Felicia Kelley and Kim Chess.

Considered the premier choice for Jewish burials, Arlington Memorial Park commands prominent geography in Sandy Springs. According to Felicia Kelley and Kim Chess, who is Jewish and a 50 year veteran of serving the Jewish community, Arlington accounts for a large percentage of the Atlanta area’s Jewish burials. The Jewish areas of the park, Beit Olam and Shalom, offer community, semi-private and private estate options. Shalom is the existing Orthodox area, and Beit Olam accommodates Unaffiliated, Reform and Conservative burials.

On the higher end of the spectrum, Arlington also has a new Hedged Estate area that features plots for two, including a bench and preinstalled monuments. The section also features private estates that can be tailored to individual tastes.

Chess recommends the early bird approach. “Pre-arranging locks in today’s pricing and reduces the emotional and financial stress on your loved ones after you pass away,” she said. She also noted that Arlington is affiliated with many synagogues, including Ahavath Achim, which recently encouraged members to buy at Arlington. Since the synagogue buys in bulk, the buyer is not up-charged, and the synagogue gets to keep a bit.

An economical option is Dunwoody Jewish Cemetery (North Atlanta Memorial Park), on Winters Chapel Rd., owned by Kelly Link, who bought out his ex-father-in-law, Brian Marlow. (Marlow is Jewish.) Link said, “We are known for our rolling green grass and upkeep. We have Jewish areas for eight synagogues, as well as unaffiliated areas and places where a non-Jew can be buried with a Jewish spouse, as long as no Christian symbols are used.” Link advises getting a better deal by buying “pre-need” versus after the demise, “where things have to be handled in a day or two in the typical Jewish death.”

Dunwoody Jewish Cemetery, part of North Atlanta Memorial Park, offers lower-cost options.

Prices start at $3,000 for the plot, 25% down, with perpetual care at 15% of the plot cost. Then there’s the $1,295 for the vault, a $1,695 service fee, and somewhere between $2,800 and $4,500 or more for upright monument markers. With COVID-induced supply chain woes, Link says that it’s more difficult now to source imported stone like marble.

“We bury a large contingent of European/Russian Jews,” Link said. “And we go to great lengths to work with rabbis to assure that Jewish customs are respected, like the vault/dome touching earth so the casket rests on the ground.”

Roswell’s Green Lawn is serviced by Robert Hernandez. “We have about 1,000 graves and enough space to last 50 more years,” he told the AJT. Hernandez also advocates the early-bird approach. In terms of pricing, “spaces are $5,995, 10% down, 10% discount for preplanning, $1,495 for perpetual care, $1895 burial fee (includes opening and closing, tent, chairs), markers/monuments $2,000, gray granite upright $2,500.”

Monuments are not required, of course, and some opt for humbler markers. “Traditionally, Jews eschew silk flower markers for stones,” Hernandez said, “plenty of those around to place on graves.”

Green Lawn in Roswell offers a northern option.

If history is your thing, consider Crest Lawn, a former Civil War lookout. The highest point in Atlanta, it’s 170 developed acres look out onto Stone Mountain and the city skyline. Plots range from $4,000 to $5,000. But Sales Manager Amber Samuels warns, “Be cautious comparing fees because there are so many variables and discounts, the main one being ‘pre-need.’ We have 10 Jewish sections and maintain a high level of cooperation with the Jewish community, like setting up tents for Temple Sinai, The Temple, and recently Beth Tefilah for various services. If the stone is bought here, the unveiling is at no charge. We have a Hebrew interpreter to assure accurate descriptions. We are on point for keeping Jewish heritage going.”

Greenwood and Oakland Cemeteries also accommodate Jewish burials, the latter having limited remaining access. Westview, established in 1884, is the largest cemetery (600 acres) in the Southeast. They don’t have a dedicated Jewish area, but do welcome all faiths.

The bottom line: Chose thoughtfully. This will be your “forever” home.

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