JCANA 2015 Conference in Baltimore, May 3-6, 2015
Relationship Judaism: Outreach Programs for
the Unaffiliated in the Jewish Community
For more information and to register on line, go to http://jcana.org/jcana-conference
See more information below.

The theme for JCANA’s upcoming Baltimore conference on May 3-6, 2015 is Relationship Judaism: Outreach Programs for the Unaffiliated in the Jewish Community.

What does “Relationship Judaism” mean? It means that the model that governed 20th century Jewish institutions isn’t working any more. As a result, membership in Jewish organizations is declining. Attendance in Jewish schools is falling. Young Jewish adults are more and more turned off from traditional models of Judaism.

What is needed for the 21st century is “Relationship Judaism” in which a welcoming Jewish community comes together to build meaningful relationships for its members and for the larger Jewish community of which it is a part. Only then will the growing unaffiliated Jewish community find meaning once again in Judaism.*

Why is this important to Jewish cemeteries?
Preservation of Jewish history and material culture includes traditional Jewish burial rituals and the genealogy of the Jewish people. Continuity of Jewish cemeteries is a vital part of preserving Jewish heritage and fostering “Relationship Judaism.”

You will not want to miss this conference!
Outreach to the unaffiliated Jewish community is a decisive component of Jewish cemetery perpetuity. We need to foster programs that enrich the entire Jewish community and include a focus on the vital role of Jewish cemeteries past, present and future.

So be sure to join us at the JCANA Baltimore Conference, May 3-6 to benefit from this visionary agenda.
Register on line at http://jcana.org/jcana-conference

See you in Baltimore!

Stan Kaplan, Chair

* Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community by Dr. Ron Wolfson (Author)

The largest cemetery in Canada today is the complex of the Baron de Hirsch- Back River Cemeteries in Montreal, in which over 71,000 people are buried, with room for approximately 28,000 more. The cemetery complex includes the Back River Cemetery established in 1882, the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery founded in 1904 and the Eternal Gardens Memorial Park Cemetery, started in the 1960’s. In recent years, approximately 600 burials have been performed annually.

Baron Maurice de Hirsch was a wealthy German aristocrat and well-known Jewish philanthropist who contributed, in today's dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars to Jewish communities in North and South America to help the resettlement of Jews who began to emigrate from Eastern Europe in large numbers, particularly in the 1880’s. In the 1890’s, Baron de Hirsch was approached by members of Montreal's growing Jewish community for financial assistance and part of his generous donation was money used to purchase the land for a Jewish cemetery. A bust of Baron de Hirsch is prominently displayed at the entrance to the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery.

The cemeteries are run by a Board of Directors, the members of which represent the various synagogues and affiliates that own land on the cemetery grounds. The Baron de Hirsch Community Foundation, a part of the Jewish community’s primary social service agency, owns approximately 50% of the land and provides for indigent burials. Only Jews (of any denominational affiliation or non-affiliated) are allowed to be buried in the cemeteries and Orthodox halachic (legal) tradition determines the policies. This means that only in-ground burials are permitted, cremated remains are not allowed and non-Jews, even if married to a Jewish spouse, are not permitted to be buried in the cemeteries.

The administrators of the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery faced a special challenge nearly 15 years ago when they were asked to join the local Federation in renovating the Back River Cemetery which had fallen into disrepair. More than $4 million was raised from the community, including a $1 million contribution from the Quebec government. Among other improvements, over 4000 monuments were removed, new foundations were poured and the monuments reinstalled, all without disturbing any remains. Back River subsequently merged with the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery.

The history of the cemeteries reflects the history of Canadian Jewry and on stroll through the grounds one can see among the graves the final resting places of a victim of the Titanic shipwreck, of many notable rabbinical scholars and well-known authors and of nearly 300 children who died of influenza in the 1920’s. There are also poignant memorials to the victims of the Holocaust.

Public tours of the cemeteries are offered and a book to celebrate and commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery, Sacred Ground of de la Savane by Danny Kucharsky was published in 2005.

For more information about the Baron de Hirsch-Back River Cemeteries, see their website, BarondeHirsch.com.

One of the oldest cemeteries in the New World is in Curacao, dating to 1668 and containing 2500 graves.

The gravestones which are still legible reveal beautiful scenes from the Bible, often correlating with the names of the deceased. Graves of men bearing the name Abraham have reliefs of the patriarch looking up the starry sky. Men bearing the name Elijah have stones engraved with the likeness of the prophet ascending to heaven in a fiery chariot.

Clearly, death during childbirth was common and a particularly moving depiction shows a scene of a man, presumably the father, giving a newly born child to a woman in front of a dead mother. Other gravestones reveal ships on stormy waves, presumably commemorating a death at sea.

The last burials in this cemetery took place in the 1950’s and among the many anonymous Jews rests one with a famous relative. Ribca Spinoza, half-sister of Baruch Spinoza, died and was buried on January 25, 1695.

In August 2014, President Obama signed a bill that would allow U.S. economic sanctions against those in foreign countries who allow damage to, or desecration of, cemeteries. The bill was effectively an amendment to the International Religious Freedom Act, which was established to combat acts of religious persecution around the world, according to the Queens (NY) Chronicle.

The impetus for this bill was the concern of Jewish residents of Queens, New York who spoke to their congresswoman, Grace Meng, about their fears regarding the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in countries where anti-Semitism and other religiously motivated vandalism is increasing.

The Chronicle noted that, “The act also empowers the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, which works to identify and preserve cemeteries, memorials and buildings in other countries that are associated with the cultural heritage of Americans.”

Judaism holds both the body and soul of all human beings as sacred, insisting that all people are created in G-d’s image. We should not be surprised, then, to learn that even the corpse of an executed criminal was to be treated with respect. In Deuteronomy, the last of the five books of the Torah, we are told, “you shall not leave his body on the pole overnight. Rather, you shall bury him on that [same] day, for a hanging (of a human corpse) is a blasphemy of G-d, and you shall not defile your land, which the Lord, your G-d, is giving you as an inheritance.”

May 3-6, 2015
DoubleTree by Hilton, Baltimore-BWI Airport
Relationship Judaism: Outreach Programs for
the Unaffiliated in the Jewish Community
The conference will also include discussions of the importance of genealogy
to Jewish history, traditions and culture.
Keynote Speaker:
Marvin Pinkert, Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland

  • History and Jewish Burial Traditions: The Importance of History and the Continuity of Jewish Burial Customs
  • Aftercare: What to do for the family after the funeral
  • Genealogy and Jewish History.
  • Honoring military veterans and working with military organizations
  • Leadership Panel: How JCANA works for you


  • A guided tour of The Jewish Museum of Maryland
  • A guided tour of the restored historic Lloyd Street Synagogue, the third oldest standing synagogue in the United States
  • An architectural tour of Baltimore
  • Tours of historic Jewish cemeteries in Baltimore area
For full conference information, and to register on line, go to: http://www.jcana.org/conference/2015conference/ConferenceOneSheet.pdf

For general information, please contact Stan Kaplan: stankaplan@jcana.org
For membership information, please contact Amy Koplow: akoplow@jcana.org
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