By Tara Jones
Jerusalem Memorial Chapels is rethinking the way a funeral home is supposed to look and feel.
Jewish-run, Jewish-owned, and Jewish-operated, the funeral service was founded in 2020 by David Sakhai, Robert Wolk, and funeral director, Adam Novak, to provide a higher level of service and connection to Jewish families in their time of need.
The mission is simple: Improve the quality of time a family spends together to honor and celebrate the memory of a lost loved one.
The three founders originally launched the company as the online site Graveside.com, while searching for the right location for a brick and mortar space to occupy. Now, nearly three years later, the group has opened Jerusalem Memorial Chapels in the middle of Long Island at 3026 Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, NY.
Adam Novak and his family have been in the funeral home business for decades, and having experienced working at multiple funeral homes, Novak took all of his former “pet peeves” from the industry to make Jerusalem Memorial Chapels a better experience for grieving families and attendees.
“Having worked at a startup, family-owned funeral home, as well as a large, more established, conventional funeral home—I used my experiences and knowledge to meticulously tailor my idea of what a funeral home should be like,” Novak explained.
The biggest pet peeve? The ambiance of most funeral homes only adds to the somber nature of why people are there to begin with.
“There is no reason a funeral home has to be a dark space with low ceilings,” Novak said. “We made our space open and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows and lighting. The space shouldn’t feel jovial or celebratory, but there’s no reason it should have to be dark and more depressing. People are already there for a depressing moment—no reason to make it more somber and anxiety provoking, as our primary focus is to try to remove the stress and anxiety as much as we possibly can.”
The building’s design incorporates a bright and airy chapel, open but warm family rooms, a roomy comfortable conference room to meet with families, a casket display room with an array of options and price points, and large bathrooms to ensure there are never any lines.
However, despite their modern takes on decor, lighting, and furniture, Jerusalem Memorial Chapels remains deeply rooted in Jewish traditions for families seeking such services.
“We’ve really focused on the details and the respect paid to the religious aspect of the funeral services. In times of grief, people tend to grasp for tradition, so our funeral home allows for the most religious families to honor their loved one in a specific way, while creating a space where everyone would feel comfortable.”
For families with more traditionally Jewish services, a separate religious preparation area has been created to oversee the body preparation through traditional Jewish bathing. The layout also includes a Shomer suite for the deceased to be tended to with prayers and psalms until their burial. Furthermore, a Rabbi Study is thoughtfully located to allow easy access from the family rooms on the day of services.
“Something I wanted to improve on was that the clergy study is always away from the family, meaning people had to leave the family room and walk through guests to get to the clergy,” Novak explained. “We’ve put our clergy study right in between the two family rooms so there is quicker access to the Rabbi. Things that some may deem trivial have been very deliberately considered by our partnership to alleviate any level of stress they may cause grieving families.”
Another main issue the group wanted to resolve was parking, which is why Jerusalem Memorial Chapels has a large lot and is located adjacent to several municipal lots where families and visitors can park for services. Signage and parking attendants are also used to ensure funeral services are conducted orderly and avoid any chaos which further adds to stress levels.
“It took a while and we had some near deals, but I am confident we ended up at the right place,” Novak said. “If you throw a dart at the center of Nassau County, that’s where we are. We’re easily accessible from major highways, there is plenty of parking near us and we have a huge, open space that we were able to model into what we believe will one day become the industry standard for funeral homes.”
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