Nestled amid the xeriscape of northeast Phoenix sits “a diamond in the desert,” as Ira Mann, general manager, refers to Mt. Sinai Cemetery. The cemetery opened in 2005, and they are currently in the planning stages for the next 30 years. Mt. Sinai owns more than 30 acres of the land surrounding it and is now under construction to expand on the five and a half acres presently being used.
In the next few weeks, the expansion will allow for the availability of 1,500 additional spaces. In the next phase, there will be 3,000 to 4,000 spaces added that will be available in a few months.
Because they are a “newer” cemetery, they haven’t seen the heritage taking place – where generations are buried or planning to be buried near one another – until recently. Some of the children with parents at Mt. Sinai are starting to think of their legacy.
“We have a lot under construction right now,” says Ira. “2020 was a crazy year for us between preplanning and people needing immediate services. Everything that was going on with COVID-19 opened up a lot of people’s eyes to preplanning. People that we talked to five or ten years ago, all of a sudden they’re calling up and saying, ‘You know, I think we need to get this done right now.’”
Nearly every rabbi in the Valley has officiated services at Mt. Sinai. Their goal is to provide a place for every single Jewish person, from Reform to ultra-Orthodox or even the unaffiliated. All are welcome.
Jewish law stipulates that the body must be buried as quickly as possible following death, and even throughout the pandemic, Mt. Sinai has been able to offer this service to families.
“We’re capable of doing it within 24 hours – or less,” says Ira. “As soon as we get the phone call, as long as we have a couple of hours in the morning to get it ready, we can have the service within 24 hours.”
Ira credits this quick turnaround to an amazing team at the cemetery, including Ben Wilson. Ben is the grounds superintendent and has been with Mt. Sinai since 2005. “A lot of the people have been here for 11, 15, or 16 years, so it makes a huge difference,” says Ira. “Everybody knows what they’re doing.”
The cemetery’s location amid the serene desert landscape also means that there is no grass and no lawnmowers driving around. Mt. Sinai also has sidewalks placed in front of all the plots so that visitors can pay their respects without walking on others’ graves.
Another thing that sets Mt. Sinai apart is their commitment to the family; once they make contact, that person will handle everything for them.
“You’re my family – from the beginning all the way to the end of the process,” says Ira. “You don’t go from one person to the other here. Whichever counselor you’re talking to from the beginning, we take care of you all the way through.”
Throughout COVID-19, they have maintained their one-on-one personalized service, just without the handshaking or hugging that would typically happen when consoling someone who has suffered a loss.
They adhere to mask protocols, sanitize the office daily, and have hand sanitizer available in multiple locations. They also keep services to a maximum of 10 people. Services are held outside under the large, covered pavilion that marks the center of the property.
“The amazing part is we did not hit one stumbling block through this whole outbreak; we’ve run flawlessly throughout the whole time,” says Ira. Unfortunately, both he and the office manager caught the coronavirus; fortunately, they were mild cases. “We had our moments in life, but at the end of the day, we didn’t miss a beat, and we were able to accommodate every single person that walked through the door.”
Mt. Sinai is located at 24210 N. 68th St. in Phoenix (off East Pinnacle Peak Road). For more information, call 480-585-6060 or visit mtsinaicemetery.com.