Members of the Washington Board of Rabbis have voted to ask their congregations to honor the picket line set up by striking embalmers and funeral directors at the Danzansky-Goldberg Memorial Chapel in Rockville, which is the areas's largest Jewish funeral home.
The 1/ directors and embalmers have been on strike since Nov. 1, when negotiations between Danzansky-Goldberg and representatives of Teamsters Local 639 broke down over issues of a pension-fund and union security.
The rabbis voted "by a substantial margin" to stop officiating at funerals after Jan. 15, and to urge the members of their congregations not to use the chapel.
Orthodox Jewish law requires that the dead be buried within 24 hours. Rabbi Louis J. Cashdan, spokesman for the rabbis, said that if it were impossible for some reason for a family to have a funeral anywhere but Danzansky, all but one of the rabbis had agreed that they would probably officiate.
Danzansky-Goldberg, 1170 Rickville Pike, is the first Washington area funeral home whose employes have formed a union.
Union representatives have not met with Danzansky-Goldberg representatvies since Dec. 11. Yesterday, after the rabbis announced the planned boycott, Guy Farmer, the funder home's lawyer, contacted federal mediator Charles Scott and asked for a meeting with the union Tuesday.
The Board of Rabbis has about 50 members. It announced its policy in the weekly newspaper, Jewish Week.
"We don't like to see this kind of strike in the Jewish community," said Rabbi Cashdan. "We want to see the two groups return to negotiating and get this thing settled. It's bad for all of us."
Farmer said that his group's decision to return to the negotiating table stemmed directly from the rabbis' announcement. "We think what they are doing is completely unfair and unjustified," he said. "We have bargained in good faith. We are trying to reach an agreement with these men but for the rabbis to say they are going to boycott the funeral home just because there is a picket line is unfair. It puts the onus on us."
Danzansky-Goldberg has continued to operate the past two months by using funeral directors and embalmers from other parts of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Farmer said business there had been affected "slightly."