When their only child, Liam, died in January 2022, Jeanne and Raziel Zisman of Toronto had to book a funeral quickly—Jewish law states a burial should happen as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours. Liam was 19. The Zismans, distraught and emotional, met virtually with a representative from Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel, the country's biggest Jewish funeral home, to make arrangements. Among their services, Benjamin's offered them the use of the Benjamin Foundation, a charity arm of the company that collects donations in the name of the deceased and transfers the money later, to a charity of the family's choosing.
What's only in the fine print, however, is that Benjamin's Foundation keeps 10 per cent of the money for administrative purposes. It's been this way for nearly 40 years. In the past decade alone, Benjamin's has routed more than $3 million through this foundation to charities—and quietly deducted 10 per cent of that. That's a higher percentage than many other charities, particularly many Jewish ones.
When the Zismans found out, they set off on a lengthy legal battle. The case is still ongoing in provincial court, but on July 27, the Zismans won a small victory: the regulatory body that oversees funeral homes in Ontario sided with the grieving family, ordering Benjamin's to release all funds—including the 10 per cent fee—to the charities, and mandated the company to make their fee structure more transparent on their website and in contracts and in conversations with clients.
On today's CJN Daily, the Zismans joins to talk about their son and their legal struggles, and you'll also hear Benjamin's side of the story.
What we talked about:
Read Liam Zisman's obituary
See how Benjamin's describes The Benjamin Foundation on their website
The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Production assistance by Gabrielle Nadler and YuZhu Mou. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We're a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.