Cunningham Turch Funeral Home in Alexandria has entered into a two-year contract with the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington to offer Jewish funerals with a pine-box casket and traditional burial rituals for $1,820.
Cunningham Turch becomes the second area funeral home to offer low-cost Jewish funerals to residents in the Maryland, D.C., Northern Virginia area.
The contract with Cunningham Turch, which also has a location in Woodbridge, went into effect July 1. It includes a right of renewal if the committee chooses.
Meanwhile, Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home in Silver Spring will continue to offer a Jewish funeral, also at $1,820. The funeral home agreed to extend its 12-year relationship with the committee for another two years. However what happens beyond June 2016 is in doubt now that Hines-Rinaldi is owned by Service Corporation International. It had been owned by Stewart Enterprises, but in May, the Federal Trade Commission agreed to let SCI acquire Stewart Enterprises.
SCI, the largest funeral home company in the country, announced in May 2013 that it had signed an agreement to acquire Stewart Enterprises, for $1.4 billion. That acquisition was approved May 6.
Robert Hausman, president of the funeral practices committee, said he was pleased that low-cost Jewish funerals will continue to be available to all area Jews despite the FTC ruling. “These services will be available to everyone who asks for a Jewish funeral,” he said. “They uphold the Jewish values of quality and simplicity in death, which are common to all streams of Judaism.” Services provided include burial shrouds, use of facilities to perform the ritual washing, watching over the body and use of a chapel.
“The contracts streamline the process of making funeral arrangements so that families suffering loss of a loved one will be relieved of the need to make decisions about quality funeral arrangements at a time of considerable distress,” Hausman continued.
David Balto, the attorney who worked closed with the committee while the FTC considered the acquisition, noted that “a conservative estimate is that this contract saves consumers over $500,000 annually.”
Michael Turch, owner of the family-owned Cunningham Turch, said, “We feel privileged to be chosen for this unique opportunity to serve the Jewish community. We have been providing high quality funeral services to many different groups in Northern Virginia for almost 90 years.”
Manager Jae Morgan explained that Cunningham Turch will offer the necessary Jewish services and will provide a space for congregation members to be with the body, if they choose to. While her company is not specifically a Jewish funeral home, it has conducted Jewish funerals in the past, she said.
“This contract establishes a special relationship with the Jewish community which commits us to providing the personal service we pride ourselves on for traditional Jewish funerals at a fair price,” Turch said.
Throughout the year-long FTC approval process, the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee as well as the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington worked to keep down the price of a Jewish funeral in this area, where costs can run as high as $10,000.
Led by those two groups, the Jewish community here conducted an intense letter-writing campaign to the FTC, unsuccessfully urging it to exempt Hines-Rinaldi from the merger. A protest in front of the FTC building was held, featuring a casket as a prop.
As part of the FTC ruling, Sagel Funeral Direction, Inc., was exempted from the merger.
The committee is composed of 48 synagogues, but anyone in the D.C., Maryland, or Northern Virginia areas can take advantage of the low cost.