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Sol Levinson & Bros are the newest members of funeral services in Annapolis

Left to right: Ira Levinson, Matt Levinson (Vice President of Sol Levinson & Bros) Steve Venick (President of Fram Monument)
Left to right: Ira Levinson, Matt Levinson (Vice President of Sol Levinson & Bros) Steve Venick (President of Fram Monument)(Donovan Conaway/Capital Gazette)

Two Jewish-faith based funeral services have opened up services in Anne Arundel County to prevent the county’s growing Jewish community from taking longer trips for end-of-life religious services.

Sol Levinson & Bros and Fram Monument are family companies that joined together to open a location in Annapolis. The companies have been around for nearly 100 years. They join other religious groups offering local funeral rites to the county’s variety of religions.

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The two companies opened up shop in the middle of December at 170 Jennifer Road, suite 150.

“We feel that the Jewish community is growing,” said Matt Levinson, Vice President of Sol Levinson & Bros. “We have been told families and Rabbi’s (want) more of a Jewish presence when people pass away.”

Different religions have different funeral rites whether Christian, Jewish, Hindu or even Muslim. The Jewish tradition practices refrigeration rather than embalming corpses. Often, individuals are dressed in the traditional burial garment known as a shroud, which is a garment made of cotton or pure linen.

Sol Levinson & Bros offer traditional chapel services, out of town burials and burials in Israel. Fram Monument offers headstones to families and unveilings.

Jewish faith makes up about 3% of Maryland’s population, according to the Pew Research Center. But local Rabbi Nochum Light said that population has grown over the 15 years he has lived in the city.

“Them being here, makes people more comfortable,” Light said. “Whatever observance you need, they can do it. They are really nice to work with.”

Both companies have met with all the Rabbi’s in the area and they are “Happy and excited” that there are two more Jewish institutions in the area, Levinson said.

Sol Levinson & Bros offer traditional chapel services, out of town burials and burials in Israel. Fram Monument offers headstones to families and unveilings.

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“We feel like our partnership makes a lot of sense,” Levinson said. “It makes it more convenient for families to make all the decisions on both ends at the same time.”

Sol Levinson & Bros will offer bereavement groups and educational programs to the community.

“We are happy to be in Anne Arundel County and to help families,” said Levinson. “Just to make it a little bit easier and convenient for families. This is a comfortable space to meet with families.”

Staying flexible

While the Jewish funeral homes moved to Annapolis to meet a growing need, the county has been serving a variety of religious families for decades.

The George P. Kalas Funeral Home in Annapolis has been open for 23 years. The funeral home claims to be the only location with a crematory on-site, meaning the deceased stays within their care.

This can help Hindu families, who are part of the cremation process, said Bob Kalas, owner.

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“Hindu religion like to participate in the cremation,” Kalas said. “They want to witness the person put into the crematory and actually start the process by pushing the button. Which is a little unique, but some families that aren’t Hindu, like to watch as well.”

In the last 20-30 years, cremation has become more popular and half the funerals don’t go to cemeteries, Kalas said. Not having to buy land is cheaper and being able to travel with the remains is a big factor for most.

“When someone comes in here to make funeral arrangements, nowadays we don’t know what the arrangements will be,” Kalas said. “When I first started working 40 years ago we knew what the funeral was going to be before the family walked in. Back then, everyone did the same thing.”

Funeral homes have to be more flexible these days to stay in business, he said.

Some families prefer celebrations for their loved ones and they request open bars and food to be cater.

Kalas doesn’t mind the changes and his business has adapted.

“Were not locked into a niche, we just serve everyone in the community,” said Kalas. “I like it that way, I wouldn’t want to be excluding people from my services.”

Other faiths can be more demanding.

In the Islamic faith, the body is washed, wrapped in simple white shrouding, brought to a house of worship for communal prayer and then buried as soon as possible, often within 24 hours. Cremation is prohibited.

No matter if a person is rich or poor, they all get wrapped in the same simple cloth.

“Amazingly, the process has been the same since the beginning of Islam,” said Imam Aamir Sheikh, the spiritual and religious leader for the Islamic Society of Annapolis. “One thing that is a newer phenomenon, is adding a headstone to identify the deceased. Historically, headstones were not used.”

If a Muslim dies in an area, he/she is usually buried in that area. Shipping the bodies back to homelands or overseas is “frowned," Sheikh said.

The process of birth and death for Muslims is a simple process; the same way a baby comes into the world with nothing, that same human being leaves it with basically nothing, he said.

“The bodies are meant to reabsorb into the earth,” said Sheikh.

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