Dedication of Kulanu Interfaith Section of Beth Israel Memorial Park
The Dedication of Kulanu, the Interfaith Section of Beth Israel Memorial Park
On August 23, 2015, we dedicated the interfaith section of Beth Israel Memorial Park. This section will be known as Kulanu (“all of us”). This word is found in the phrase from the prayer for peace in the daily morning service: Barcheinu Avinu Kulanu K’echad b’or Panecha, Bless us, our Parent, all of us together as one with the light of your face, The name Kulanu reflects our desire to provide a burial place for all of us, including non-Jewish members of Jewish families with their Jewish spouses. This is a previously unused section of the cemetery, clearly separated from the main sections by shrubs and paths, to be designated for interfaith burials.
Rabbi Finkelstein and I spoke about how to dedicate an interfaith cemetery. We created a ritual that involved reading passages from Jewish sources about the honor and responsibility of burying the dead, and the classic source permitting burial of Jews with burial of non-Jews, from the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 61a):
“We support the poor of the non-Jews with the poor of the Jews, and we visit the sick of the non-Jews with the sick of the Jews, and we bury the dead of the non-Jews with the dead of the Jews because of the ways of peace.”
We also read the story of Biblical story of Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah as a burial place for his wife Sarah. After paying the required amount of silver, “the cave located there, and all the trees in the field, and all the borders round about, were made sure to Abraham for a possession.” Based on this text, we “made sure” of the “borders round about” of this section of the cemetery, by inviting everyone in attendance to walk its perimeter as a way to claim this land for the purpose for which we were dedicating it.
Thanks to Mayor Jeannette McCarthy for joining us at this ceremony, and to the cemetery committee for its work in making this section a reality for the TBI community. Herb Baron, z”l, our former cemetery chair, would have been happy to see this dedication take place. While there is still work to be done, dedicating an interfaith section of a Jewish cemetery is a major and bold step for a traditional synagogue to take. It recognizes that Jewish families and communities are changing, and that we need to adapt to meet these needs.