LIVINGSTON, NJ — Since assuming the position of advanced planning director at Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel in Livingston last year, Jerry Bellizzi has gone about his role with some specific objectives in mind.

"I wanted to bring my commitment to serve the Jewish community and prepare a dignified  funeral with very specific Jewish traditions that we follow," said Bellizzi.

After serving the Bergen County community for several years as a funeral director, Bellizzi arrived at Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman in 2018 with ample experience and a desire to establish definite objectives and protocols at his new locale.

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"I consider myself a funeral expert," said Bellizzi. "I am also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, and I am very involved in seeing that veterans in this community are being educated, taken care of, and having their funerals prepared in dignified manner. I want to hone in on veterans and specifically work with them.

Belizzi has also begun a campaign with Brookdale Senior Living, working with them "to assure that they are also getting education."

"Being a provider for them, I am building a cohesive relationship with them," he said. "This is a partnership I created here in New Jersey that has been going extremely well."

Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman has insisted that a funeral service be more than merely a business, and that it also serves the fulfillment of a trust given by the families the chapel serves. Bellizzi's goals are right in line with that core belief.

"My purpose here is simple: to make this experience as stress free, seamless and dignified as possible," he said. "By doing things in advance, I am protecting families from unnecessary stress and anxiety by having everything completed ahead of time. When the death does occur, you need to spend time with your family and let us handle the details. I try to make this horrible experience as anxiety-free as it possibly can be under the circumstances."

During his transition to Essex County, Bellizzi has been able to glean plenty of positive impressions of the local community.

"This is a very cohesive area where people really value family, value their traditions, and more importantly, respect and understand the importance of a dignified funeral service," Bellizzi said. "They are very specific and precise about what they want in a funeral service. They are very caring, family-oriented people. They are cohesive in their schools and temples. It's a close-knit community. Everyone seems to know each other. There's a lot of good relationship building going on in this community. They are genuine people."