TORONTO — Several years ago, when close to 300 burial plots became available for direct purchase by the public at Bathurst Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, the entire inventory sold out within 18 months without any promotion – not even a public notice in a newspaper.
“It was done literally by word of mouth,” recalls Philip Covshoff, president of the Bathurst Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery Association, which manages the Jewish burial ground for 55 Jewish organizations that collectively own the site. Sale and administration of the 300 plots was conducted by a corporate entity called Jewish Cemeteries Management Inc.
Pent-up demand for reasonably priced Jewish cemetery plots is apparently still high.
Last week, a flurry of phone calls and emails to both the cemetery association and The Canadian Jewish News followed The CJN’s disclosure that another 550 or so newly claimed burial plots at Bathurst Lawn will soon become available to the general public. (Another 550 new plots will simultaneously become available to nine of the cemetery’s existing member organizations.)
In response, the cemetery association sent a letter to The CJN explaining that the 550 community plots will likely not become available for at least a year and that no names will be put onto a waiting list “until there is an official announcement.”
Sale of the previous 300 burial plots, some seven or eight years ago, essentially paid for a $600,000 renovation of the cemetery’s roadways, Covshoff said. Revenues from the proposed 550 community plots will go into a perpetual care and maintenance fund.
Jewish burial plots in Toronto average about $4,000 to $5,000, but some go for as little as $3,200 or as high as $10,000, Covshoff said. Synagogues and societies often add a hefty premium when selling to non-members to enhance their care and maintenance funds, he said.
“People are sometimes willing to pay extra for location. They don’t want to be way up north. They prefer to be near where they’re living.”
Established in the 1930s on Bathurst Street south of Steeles Avenue, Bathurst Lawn currently has space for about 26,000 burials. It’s presently about 60 per cent occupied, with another 20 per cent of spots already reserved. The cemetery association recently began construction of a new $1.25-million administrative building that is expected to be completed in the spring and will offer a variety of community uses.