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Outstanding Jewish funeral residence ordered to refund charges taken from memorial donations

The 18th of Might ought to have been Raziel Zisman’s son’s 20th birthday. 

As a substitute, Zisman discovered himself submitting a grievance to the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) over how Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel — a distinguished Jewish funeral residence in Toronto — was dealing with memorial donations made in his son’s identify.

“As a substitute of specializing in grieving and therapeutic, we have now to relive, each time we take care of this, some very, very painful moments,” Zisman advised CBC Toronto.

After his 19-year-old son, Liam Jacob Zisman, died in January 2022, Zisman signed an settlement with Benjamin’s to carry a funeral service and to gather memorial donations on the household’s behalf earlier than dispersing the cash to charities. 

His subject is with the funeral residence’s failure to inform him a few 10 per cent administrative charge taken from every donation that comes into its charitable basis, and its refusal to let him see an accounting of the cash that has been collected. 

“I’ve the appropriate to obtain an accounting,” stated Zisman. “As of immediately, these funds, to my data, are nonetheless sitting of their checking account.”

Bereavement authority weighs in 

Although the charge quantity was included in a contract he signed, Zisman says it wasn’t communicated clearly to him — one thing the BAO finally agreed with after he filed his formal grievance. 

After investigating, the BAO instructed Benjamin’s to do extra to inform its potential clients in regards to the 10 per cent charge, and to refund the charges collected by its charitable basis over the past six years to the charities that will have obtained them.

Benjamin’s has agreed to replace its web site and re-train employees in order that the quantity taken by the muse is communicated extra clearly, however is now searching for a judicial assessment of the BAO’s order that they pay again years price of charges. 

It has additionally promised to briefly pause the follow of charging the 10 per cent administrative charge “pending the enchantment of the BAO choices,” in response to a press release from managing director Michael Benjamin.

David Brazeau of the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) says that his group has investigated 5 complaints towards Benjamin’s since 2016. (Submitted by David Brazeau)

That pause “is sweet information for grieving households,” stated David Brazeau, BAO’s supervisor of communications. 

As for the refunds, it is “nonetheless up within the air due to the problem from Benjamin’s funeral residence,” Brazeau stated.

“And that can go to the Superior Court docket of Justice.”

Zisman has additionally filed a lawsuit towards Benjamin’s, however says he expects it will likely be at the least a yr earlier than it strikes to the subsequent stage. 

Inside ‘trade pointers’?

In a press release to CBC Toronto, Michael Benjamin expressed remorse that “a small dispute has grow to be a prolonged authorized battle” with the Zisman household.

He additionally wrote that the explanation for the problem to the current BAO resolution is that “the muse clearly and unequivocally doesn’t fall underneath the jurisdiction of the BAO and is already regulated extensively and totally underneath current Canadian legal guidelines and laws in addition to the [Canada Revenue Agency].”

Lastly, he wrote that the follow of taking a 10 per cent charge falls “effectively inside trade pointers” for non-profits, and in reality solely covers a few quarter of the prices of working the Benjamin’s charitable basis. 

That runs in distinction to what Brazeau says he has seen within the wider funeral trade. 

“Most funeral properties both cost a one per cent, or a really low proportion charge, or nothing in any respect for merely taking charitable donations,” he stated. 

“It’s extremely uncommon for us to see a 10 per cent cost.” 

Different charge complaints 

Zisman’s grievance will not be the primary time Benjamin’s has been investigated by BAO, who say they’ve appeared into 5 complaints towards the funeral residence because it was based in 2016. 

A information launch on-line describes a collection of choices made in 2020 and 2021 by which Benjamin’s was ordered to refund practically 260 individuals for being charged further charges, together with being charged a “particular care charge” in the course of the pandemic even when the loss of life was not COVID-19 associated. 

“Benjamin’s settled that with us in April of this yr. They usually paid again virtually $76,000 of these expenses,” stated Brazeau. 

As for Zisman, he is nonetheless ready to obtain the cash raised in his son’s reminiscence, which Benjamin’s says it is compelled to carry till there’s a authorized decision.

Liam Zisman, who was an environmental geoscience main at Brock College and a former intern on the Northern Miner, a mining commerce journal, was additionally a most cancers survivor.

The cash donated on his behalf was meant to go to Chai Lifeline and Camp High quality, which run camps and supply helps for youngsters with most cancers. 

“Liam attended these camps and benefited vastly. He was concerned and far cherished,” stated Zisman.

“The funds donated in January … ought to have been dispersed to sponsor children who would profit from these camps this summer time. And right here we’re in September. This isn’t proper.”

In early October, Brock College is about to carry a discussion board on sustainable useful resource growth in Liam’s reminiscence, half of a bigger initiative of his father to “entice, encourage and inspire younger individuals” to become involved with the sector.

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