Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, the first and only nonprofit funeral chapel in New York that is owned and operated by the Jewish Community, will be stepping up its efforts to serve as a valuable community resource on issues of mourning and burial now that it is retiring its debt. This month at its Board of Directors meeting, Plaza will celebrate the final payment on its $1.5 million mortgage, putting the organization on a secure financial footing.
Since it was founded 12 years ago, Plaza has touched the lives of more than 7,000 families – including that of Harold Handler, Plaza’s current Chairman. Two and a half years ago, his father-in-law passed away and they held the funeral at Plaza.
Handler played an influential role in creating the nonprofit Jewish funeral home in 2001 with the goal of reducing the cost and increasing the quality of Jewish funeral and burial services. An existing funeral home on the Upper West Side was purchased for $2.7 million with grants from the Jewish Communal Fund, the UJA-Federation of New York, and $1.25 million in seven-year interest-free loans from eight philanthropists. A governing board of directors made up of clergy, community leaders and executives of social service agencies was established and the work to promote Plaza began.
“There was a great deal of resentment at the commercialization of other funeral homes – we didn’t want mourners to be pushed into buying anything other than a plain pine casket,” says Handler. “We saw a need in offering an affordable option that provides first-rate service but was not commercial, and that paid great respect to the traditions associated with Jewish burial and tahara.”
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