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by Cathy Steirn and Jane Hoberman

It is with gratitude and appreciation to all who participated in Kehilla’s cemetery survey that we write this article to our congregation. We anticipate that this will be the first of other communiqués about this complex and life cycle topic.

The intention of this survey was to determine if there was sufficient interest within Kehilla for us to pursue getting a Kehilla specific section in any one particular cemetery. The survey results indicated that there is not currently enough congregational interest in a particular cemetery at this time.  We will continue to work with cemeteries to see if smaller areas are options, as well as continue to monitor the interest of our congregation in this matter.

Firstly, a brief summation of the results. You will find a link at the end of this article for the survey results in entirety.

  • Of 420 members in Kehilla, we elicited responses from 107 individuals.
  • Nearly 100% had previously thought about what they wanted after they died.
  • 38% desired burial; 19% desired cremation
  • 61% wanted to be buried in a Jewish cemetery or Jewish section while

22% felt strongly about being in a Kehilla specific area.

  • 67% desired a green burial (for our purposes here, green burial means being placed in an unlined (no concrete liner) grave in either a wooden casket or directly into the ground without a casket).

Secondly, confounding factors in making burial/cremation decisions.

Naturally, it is often a fraught time when someone dies and friends/family/ community face carrying out the very final decision about managing the body of the deceased person. Ideally, in-depth conversations about their desires occurred previously and a decision has already been reached. Such decisions require careful consideration, especially if one is uncertain about their desires or choices. We recognize the complexity of this process and plan educational events for our congregation to help clarify issues and promote decision making in this matter. There is a lot to consider when deciding about burial vs. cremation.  There are ecological concerns: what is the carbon footprint of cremation vs burial; how much land is available in general, and in the Bay Area, specifically? There are financial concerns: how much does it cost to bury vs. cremate; where can I visit a loved one? There are religious concerns: how do we balance Jewish tradition with modernity?

Thirdly, you asked some great questions and raised interesting topics for exploration.

We cannot address all your requests in this article. We can answer some which require a brief response. We also plan an educational program to further cover questions and topics.

Question: “Would non Jewish family members be able to be buried in the same Section as Jewish family members?”

Answer:      Yes

Question: “Does the tradition of sitting with the body happen if you are going to be cremated?”

Answer:     Yes, at Kehilla, this practice called shmira is observed for those being cremated.

Use this link for cemetery survey with results/breakdown and questions:

We also want to thank and acknowledge Lisa Korwin for her help and guidance in the creation and analysis of this survey.

With warm thanks to our beloved Kehilla,

Cathy Steirn and Jane Hoberman


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