A fire once engulfed the building where Jerusalem Memorial Chapels now operates a modern and welcoming funeral home for the Long Island community.
It was from the ashes that founders Adam Novak, Robert Wolk and David Sakhai built the only Jewish-run, Jewish-owned, and Jewish-operated funeral service in the neighborhood.
“The building had a fire but the building was not structurally damaged,” Novak said. “The fire caused the previous owners to gut the whole place. There was still some cleanup we needed to do, but structurally it was perfect. It was just a big open canvas for us to design, and that worked perfectly for us.”
Starting in 2018, the team considered many traditional properties, including abandoned synagogues in Hicksville and Massapequa, but ultimately landed on the ideal 20,000-square-foot spot at 3026 Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown in 2019. The east-west accessibility to Jewish cemeteries and the lack of local funeral options for Jewish families made the location stand out.
“When you throw a dart at Nassau County, this is the center,” Novak said. “We had no idea about that until we started really focusing on this location. I think we really got lucky with that.”
The Jerusalem Memorial Chapels property came with an ideal footprint for a funeral home: clients are comfortably ushered through the street-level floor amenities, while staff operations are contained downstairs. A carport restored from a defunct add-on — which was an unpermitted space that apparently caused the previous fire — now welcomes and shelters mourners and visitors. The new funeral home includes two family rooms, a clergy room, a casket showcase area, spacious bathrooms, and contemporary staff office space. The centerpiece is where services are held.
“We were able to build one of the biggest chapels on Long Island,” Novak said.
While the location may not have been a traditional property for funeral services, the opportunity to launch a truly unique offering in the neighborhood could not be surpassed.
“Beforehand when we’d talk to people, they didn't understand why you would put it here,” Novak said. “But now that it's here, people have had a very positive reaction to it, especially its proximity to Jerusalem Avenue, Wantagh Parkway, and the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway. It's gotten a lot of positive feedback.”
The staff at Jerusalem Memorial Chapels has been floored by community interest.
“The reaction we’ve gotten is really surprising. It instantly became a positive for a lot of people,” Novak said. “They've taken ownership. They say, ‘We finally have a Jewish funeral home near us. We want this in our community.’”
The location has also proved hopeful for business through passing traffic.
“I'm surprised at how many people just walk in. We didn't expect that,” Novak said. “We’ve got a lot of in-town call-in or walk-in traffic for pre-plan — which is planning ahead for their loved ones or themselves. We've had people just walk in wanting to learn more and see the building. And once they see the building, they’re motivated to use us.”
Since May, business has been steadily growing, with relationships flourishing within the community.
“Like anything else, you can always do more,” Novak said. “But for now, we're getting as much as we can handle. We're growing quickly; it's allowing us to smooth out some of the rough edges with having a new building.”