THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — The widow of a London banker sued Antwerp’s largest Jewish community for allegedly obstructing the placing of a tombstone on his grave.
The suit, which was filed in November, is set to be heard in an Antwerp civil court on Wednesday. The community denies the accusation.
It concerns the 2012 burial of Albert Fuss at the Jewish cemetery in Putte in the Netherlands owned by the Machsike Hadass community.
Fuss, an Antwerp native who died at 76, was buried in the cemetery because it is the final resting place of his mother. In the lawsuit, Fuss’ widow, Lynda Jane Fuss of London, and two other claimants wrote that Machsike Hadass was paid for the burial but requested additional payments for erecting a headstone.
According to the lawsuit, Machsike Hadass received $15,700 from the Fuss family, though the community disputes the sum and the purpose for which the money was intended. The family further claims that it had been asked on various occasions to pay $78,000 to $157,000 for a headstone. But Machsike Hadass disputes those sums, too, and and the lawsuit’s characterization of the money’s intended use.
Pinchas Kornfeld, the chairman of Machsike Hadass, told JTA that he could not discuss the case’s details because they are subject to judicial review.
The community, Kornfeld said, had tried to reach a compromise with the family, but it “chose for a confrontational approach.” Before the trial, he said, the parties had talked about starting a nonprofit with a donation from the Fuss family.
A Fuss family representative said it had sought arbitration and donated nearly $94,000 to a Jewish charity in Antwerp as a gesture of good will but ultimately had no alternative to litigation.
The lawsuit accuses Kornfeld of not honoring an agreement to bury Fuss and erect a headstone, but Kornfeld denied that such an agreement had been reached.
“The rules in our community are that there are no fixed prices. Families that are more fortunate are charged more, and this allows the poor to be buried for free or almost for free,” Kornfeld said.
In their lawsuit, the claimants wrote that Machsike Hadass and Kornfeld often demand “large sums of money from wealthy families by refusing to allow a tombstone to be placed on the grave of a beloved one until large sums of money are paid.”