The ultra-modern 6,500 square-foot funeral facility opening next week in the Talbott Center on Rockville Pike has everything needed for Jewish funeral preparations, but absent is a chapel for conducting services. And that, according to Sagel Bloomfield management, is by design.
The decision to not build a chapel is in response to an “overall trend and increasing client preference” for graveside funerals, said Al Bloomfield, co-owner of Sagel Bloomfield Danzansky Goldberg Funeral Care.
Without a chapel of its own, Sagel Bloomfield is offering families the option of using worship space at local synagogues. Kol Shalom Synagogue in Rockville is the newest such “funeral and memorial chapel partner.” Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center of Washington Hebrew Congregation in Potomac and some secular facilities also have entered into arrangements with Sagel Bloomfield.
Though funeral chapel services remain popular in other locales, like northern New Jersey where Bloomfield previously worked, they are not as popular in the Washington market. The cost of maintaining an underused chapel would be passed on to the client in one form or another, which Bloomfield said did not sit right with him.
“I’m not sure when it occurred in the D.C. market, but the amount of times that our chapel was being used didn’t justify the expense of staying there,” said Bloomfield. “We like the idea of partnering with synagogues in the area to support them and to support the families with different options.”
“We are finding that more and more families prefer to come to a synagogue or have a graveside service versus going to an outside funeral chapel,” Rabbi Jonathan Maltzman of Kol Shalom said in a statement.
“In order to best serve Kol Shalom, we needed funeral partners who can support the desires of our members as well as advise them and help plan for this stressful, emotional and confusing time.”
Final touches were being put on the new facility late last week. In a walk-through with the Washington Jewish Week, Bloomfield pointed out the features essential to a Jewish funeral home. The tahara room used by the volunteer Jewish burial societies to purify bodies for burial has a lift to assist volunteers with moving the body from the cleansing table to the casket. There is a room adjacent to the walk-in refrigerator with a window looking in so that the shomer can watch over the deceased, according to Jewish custom. Bloomfield approximated that 97 percent of the clientele is Jewish, predominantly Reform and Conservative, though the funeral home accommodates Orthodox and non-Jewish families.
Sagel Bloomfield Danzansky Goldberg Funeral Care, Inc. began as two family owned funeral homes that were bought by Service Corporation International/Dignity Memorial and sold back to Ed Sagel in 2014.
The new facility is directly across Rockville Pike from the Danzansky-Goldberg Memorial Chapels location. That building, Bloomfield believes, will be turned into several storefronts.
Bloomfield said, “We’re excited to be able to offer the community brand new modern space to make their arrangements in and make it as easy for those families as possible if they do want to use one of those facilities we’ve lined up.”