On October 18, 2010, Itim held a training seminar for social workers at Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center on the issue of burial in Israel. The seminar included critical information needed by families of the deceased including costs associated with burial, people the families can turn to in their time of need, organizations that deal with burial and funerals, and more.
According to Shlomit Solomon, the initial idea for this project was based on the numerous phone calls received by the Itim hotline from families (mainly of olim but not only) and hospital staff members who were in a state of great confusion in the day following the death of their loved ones/ patients. Families were overwhelmed by the horrible combination of the desire to drop everything and surrender to their grief- and the need to make many decisions- some of them involving huge sums of money- instantly. Hospital staff members simply didn’t have the crucial information and therefore couldn’t help and give advice.
Again and again we received calls from people saying:
“We thought that burial is for free but are asked to pay 12,000 NIS! Is that ok?”
Or : “The chevra kadisha is telling us we have to make up our minds right now whether to purchase a burial plot for the spouse of the deceased. It’s very expensive! Do we have to make that decision right now?”
And: “Our father is not Jewish according to halacha. What are our choices? Where will he be buried?”
We’ve helped people on a one-by-one basis until we realized that in order to really help, we should help train the staff at the hospitals- mainly social workers who are the ones that are in charge of helping the family when a death occurs- but also nurses and other staff members. When it comes to burial costs and expenses, on many occasions money was spent unnecessarily and can’t be reimbursed, so prevention is crucial. It may seem like a horrible thing to think about at these moments, but for many families these are sums that they don’t have and unfortunately there are many people out there who take advantage of families at these very moments.
During our seminar we cover topics such as: whose liable for burial in Israel, what are the costs of purchasing a plot in advance, what’s covered by the National Insurance Institute and what isn’t, what are the different types of burial used in Israel today, the options for burial available for non-Jews and those who wish to be buried in a civil ceremony, contact numbers in case the family/staff feel they have been given wrong information- and more.
To date, the seminar funded by anonymous donors, was presented to the social workers of the oncology ward at Rambam Medical Center and to the entire social work staff at the Sha’are Zedek Medical Center. On both occasions, the staff was very eager to learn and quite surprised to learn many facts they were unaware of. Itim is working on preparing additional seminars in hospitals and for organizations.