Adath Jeshurun is joining in the green movement with the first green Jewish cemetery in the Twin Cities. A green burial section is now available at the Adath Chesed Shel Emes Cemetery.
The cemetery also has the Workmen’s Circle section so anyone, no matter their means, can be buried as well as sections for infants and non-Jewish family members. The green section was dedicated on June 23, and one burial has taken place so far.
Rabbi Stuart Kelman, leading authority on Jewish green burial and end of life practices, came eight years ago, and a cemetery committee subcommittee for green burial was formed four years ago.
Kelman said Adath’s original burial society was a revolution in Jewish practices in the country, and environmental issues are a new revolution.
Norman Greenberg, chair of Adath’s green burial committee, said the half-acre of land has “no concrete, the landscaping is native to the area with native plants, there’s no irrigation, [and] there’s no mowing so there’s a lot less upkeep and environmental impact.”
There is a shared monument for names and no headstones or vaults are allowed.
Greenberg said, “Jewish burial is pretty green to begin with.”
A traditional Jewish burial uses a pinewood coffin which is biodegradable. The body is also free of makeup and other toxins.
Rabbi Harold Kravitz of Adath said there were no compromises between upholding Jewish tradition and being environmentally friendly.
“Traditionally Judaism believes that burial is the respectful way to treat a body after a person dies. The body is considered a sacred vessel that carries the person … and the body should be treated with respect,” said Kravitz. “That’s what our burial society’s about, and that’s what green burial’s about as well: allowing the body to return back to the earth from which it came.
“The Torah also speaks about the importance of being good stewards, of taking care of the earth that God gave us.”
Greenberg said that some people want to minimize their impact at the end of life.
“One of the drivers [for creating the green section] was for people [to have] choices,” he said. “It gives people another option for how they want to be handled at the end of life.”