Save the Date: Join us in Los Angeles, CA for JCANA Conference 2014, May 4-7!

It was gratifying to all of us at this year's conference (see full report below) to meet and network with so many of our colleagues about issues that affect us all.

JCANA's member cemeteries face many challenges. One particular challenge is the necessity of investing in cemetery restoration to prevent decay and decrepitude to maintain the dignity of our sacred burial grounds.

Hebrew Charitable Burial Ground in Malden, Massachusetts is of particular interest. JCAM (Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts, a founding member of JCANA) is in the process of restoring the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Massachusetts, dating to 1851. Its original name was the "Hebrew Charitable Burial Ground" which is home to 1450 decedents, including nearly 1200 children who died at the age of 5 or younger! Click here to see the progress on this $100,000 restoration project in Malden, MA.

Additional JCANA restoration projects will be featured in future editions of this newsletter. Let us know of any restoration projects on your cemetery.

Stan Kaplan

Let’s Share Information...

Do you have an on-site chapel that can be used for funerals and other services? What events do you use it for? Please share your policy with other JCANA members by e-mailing:g Your responses will be included in our next JCANA e-newsletter.

Sherwood Park Cemetery is a small cemetery containing approximately 200 graves, the last of which was filled in 1969. It is located in Yonkers, NY, and was historically owned and operated by Congregation Brothers of Israel (CBI), an Orthodox synagogue founded in the early part of the 20th century. In April 2010, the Community Association for Jewish At-Risk Cemeteries (CAJAC), a member organization of JCANA, was alerted to the dissolution of CBI. Since CAJAC's mission is to advance the dignified maintenance of community burial grounds by bringing together dedicated volunteers, community leaders and professionals to help rehabilitate troubled grounds and preserve vital records of Jewish communal life in America, the future of this cemetery became a cause for concern.

Under the original plan of dissolution and proposed allocation of CBI's assets, no funds were set aside for the cemetery. Upon learning of the pending transfer, CAJAC was concerned that appropriate resources be set aside for the cemetery's long-term care and that an appropriate new institutional steward be identified. Ultimately, the New York State Attorney General played an active role in the transfer of the cemetery.

Fortunately, Fleetwood Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox congregation located in nearby Mt. Vernon, satisfied all of CAJAC's criteria for transfer and, most importantly, viewed stewardship of the cemetery as a natural extension of its own mission. In late 2012, the Court approved Fleetwood's petition for the stewardship of Sherwood Park. Since that time, CAJAC has actively been advising Fleetwood about the cemetery's operation. CAJAC has also assisted Fleetwood in enhancing the cemetery's security and plans on beginning a historical research initiative in the fall of this year. As of this writing, CAJAC is pleased to report Sherwood Park Cemetery is being managed by Fleetwood with a high level of care and efficiency.

Toronto Hebrew Memorial Parks hosted this year's annual conference, the first year that the conference was held in Canada. The event took place in Toronto from June 2nd to 4th, and brought together nearly one hundred people associated with Jewish cemeteries from across North America.

The conference's keynote speaker was Dr. David Novak of the University of Toronto. Dr. Novak is a Jewish theologian, ethicist, and scholar of Jewish philosophy who spoke about the sanctity of the Jewish cemetery. A unique roundtable discussion was convened with Michael D'Mello (Registrar of Cemeteries, Ontario) and Richard Fishman (Director, New York State Department of State Division of Cemeteries), which addressed administrative issues and concerns relevant to cemeteries throughout North America. The discussion was moderated by the JCANA's own Vice-Chairman, William C. Draimin.

Other conference sessions included presentations by Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, president of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha (NASCK), who spoke about burial practices in today's Jewish communities, Greg Strahl of Palladium Insurance who discussed the insurance needs of cemeteries, and representatives from Cansel who discussed how cemeteries could benefit from, and utilize, digital record keeping and GPS technologies.

The conference's social activities included a historical and heritage tour of Toronto's Pape Avenue Cemetery (Toronto's oldest Jewish cemetery, established in 1849) and a tour of Kensington Market in downtown Toronto. A highlight of the conference was an arboretum walking tour of Pardes Shalom Cemetery during which attendees learned about this cemetery as a prime example of the Cemetery Beautiful Movement of the 19th Century. The tour highlighted the landscaping strategies used for the cemetery, the history of the land, and attempts to promote the land's environmental health. Another highlight of the conference was a screening of the film, "In Heaven, Underground," an award winning documentary which explores the 130-year-old Weissensee Cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery still in use in Europe. North of Berlin, its one hundred acres include 115,000 graves and an archive with meticulous records.

The conference ended with a lively session called "Ask the Rabbi and the Regulator" which allowed participants to participate in a question and answer period with Rabbi Zohn and Richard Fishman.

For more information on JCANA, its past conferences, or to learn about next year's conference in Los Angeles, please visit

In the last issue of the JCANA newsletter, we asked our members:
Besides burials, what special services do you offer?
These are the answers we received:
  - Community education programs
  - Grants for social services to children, families, veterans, senior adults and Memorial Day events for veterans and students
  - "Concierge service" to help the bereaved family from the moment of death through the end of the shiva week
  - Pre-High Holiday service
  - Community Mother's and Father's Day remembrance services

In Deuteronomy, the last book of the Torah, the tribes of Israel are exhorted to "walk after the Lord, your G-d." Commentators explain that "walking" means to follow, to emulate, the Holy One. This, says theTalmud (Oral Code) involves clothing the naked as God clothed Adam and Eve, visiting the sick as God visited Abraham after his circumcision, comforting the bereaved as He comforted Isaac after his father's death and burying the dead as He buried Moses.

Being part of a holy nation involves not only ensuring the welfare of the living, but includes the sacred tasks of mourning and burying the dead as well.

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