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What is the Hineni Learning Tool?

Hineni is a unique, interactive, web-based tool that gives users a simple, ergonomic, and fast way to get information about Jewish death practices. The word, Hineni, is the transliteration of a Hebrew phrase used in the Torah, meaning "Here I am." It was chosen to indicate this tool is here to give succinct, direct answers to everyone quickly and easily. Hineni is intended to be used by various audiences, starting with (1) with those who directly serve families (funeral directors, cemetery workers, hospice personnel, Jewish clergy, chaplains, death doulas, and hospital personnel, who want to learn more to be better able to serve Jewish families and who want to assist families in making end-of-life decisions), and (2) families facing death of a loved one who wish to learn more about our traditions. We also envision community leaders using this tool as they prepare drashot for services, lectures, or classes, along with Chevrah Kadisha workers who want to expand their abilities to share these practices with their community. Additional possible users could include bnei mitzvot classes and their teachers, chevrah leaders, chevrah volunteers, local education champions,  Jewish community lay leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish clergy, JADE helpline responders, and synagogue caring committee members. Acknowledgements The Hineni tool was developed by the JADE staff as a part of ongoing community educational efforts to find the best ways to disseminate and share knowledge about Jewish end-of-life practices, rites, customs, and traditions. An acknowledgement of the contribution of our staff is shown below.
Concept:
Rick Light
Prototype:
Rick Light
Coordination:
Isabel Knight
Content:
HollyBlue Hawkins, Rick Light
Editing:
Rick Light, David Zinner
Marketing
Isabel Knight, Susan Kramer
Implementation:

Jewish Cemetery

A Deeper Understanding


Jewish cemeteries provide a holy place for burial and graveside rituals, in addition to offering a place for visitation and reflection, genealogical research, and sacred books and objects. Time honored codes of conduct, carried down l'dor vador, align our consciousness towards the utmost respect for the dead - our Jewish ancestors - weaving each local remnant of Jewish history back into the common cloth. Jews buried in a Jewish cemetery are prepared in a manner intended to honor the holiness of human souls and deliver our human remains back to the Earth in as beautiful a manner as possible; for how can we mortals improve upon what our Creator has made?

Introduction


Establishing a cemetery is one of the first and highest priorities for a new Jewish community, and a Jewish cemetery is generally purchased and supported with communal funds.  Each cemetery determines their own rules governing not only who can be buried there, but also rules that span the spectrum from disinterment to plot size variations to the use of flowers. Jewish burial grounds are typically not within synagogue grounds, usually located in public spaces, on land that is restricted for burial, and protected in perpetuity from development for other purposes. Often there are ownership or communal norms or restrictions on what is permissible within the cemetery.

Establishing a cemetery is more than a purchase of land. It is a spiritual commitment to our ancestors to honor them and to our descendants to show that a vibrant Jewish community existed here. Thus, historically the creation of a cemetery has been one of the first and highest priorities for a new Jewish community. The land of the cemetery is usually considered holy, and a special consecration ceremony takes place on its inauguration.

Details


Jewish burial grounds are typically located in public spaces, on land that is restricted for burial, and protected in perpetuity from development for other purposes. Cemeteries are intended to be forever, and their ownership should reflect that. A Jewish cemetery may be owned by a synagogue or by some type of Jewish society. Some municipalities own larger cemeteries with dedicated Jewish sections. Many communities have cemeteries that are corporately owned, with one or more Jewish sections.

A Jewish cemetery can be recognized by iconic symbols on gravestones. These might include the Hebrew acronym for this phrase, t’hay nafsho/ah tzrurah b’tzror hachaim, “May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life.” This paraphrases the words that Abigail told King David (I Samuel 25:29): “But my lord’s soul shall be bound in the bond of life…”  One might also see a Mogan David, the classic six-pointed star, or the Hebrew letters, pay-nun, an acronym for the Hebrew phrase, po nikbar, “here is buried,” or maybe an image of the Levite’s washing pitcher for washing the Kohen’s feet, or the Kohen’s hands arranged for the priestly blessing. 

Gravestones may be upright or flat, made from a variety of different materials, including granite, marble, or bronze. They may be plain or ornately decorated with carvings, and even occasionally with pictures of the deceased. Most notable to visitors is often the placement of small pebbles or stones found on the top if gravestones, indicating that this grave has been recently visited. Memorial markers are typically erected within the first year following burial, with a specific American custom to have a small unveiling service to note the installation of the stone. Subsequent visitors to the grave note their visit by leaving a pebble or stone on top of the gravestone.

Some cemeteries are centuries old. Cemetery boards and management may face challenges with ownership, finances, and practices. Innovative cemeterians are eager to accommodate various traditions and to incorporate strategies to convert to “greener” practices and are actively seeking knowledge, tools, and practices to develop appropriate and well-organized innovation strategies.

Cemeteries vary in size and scope, from a single grave, a family plot, a specific community group plot, or an open communal cemetery. Rules can (and should) cover requirements such as what sort of monuments, markers, gravestones, headstones, foot stones, vaults, or crypts; what words or symbols may be displayed or included on such monuments, what decorations or plantings may be placed on or surrounding a grave; what types of caskets, liners or vaults, or burial of cremated remains are permitted; what sort of ceremonies and rituals are required, and who may be buried in which section.

 

Resources to Learn More


 

A Jewish cemetery is a piece of land set aside specifically for burial that has been dedicated through ceremony that reflects Jewish values and customs. 


Click on icons below to learn about this topic from different perspectives.

Practical

Textual

Emotional

Spiritual

The Cemetery from the Practical / Physical Perspective

Jewish cemeteries are sacred spaces that are dedicated to preserving the memory of our loved ones, and capturing the history of our communities. Throughout history, when Jews migrated to a new community, one of the first actions upon arrival was to create a consecrated cemetery. This demonstrates how essential the cemetery is to the health of the community.

The Cemetery from the Intellectual / Textual Perspective

Jewish cemeteries provide a holy place for burial and graveside rituals, in addition to offering a place for visitation and reflection, genealogical research, and sacred books and objects. Our tradition of buring our dead began with Abraham when he purchased the cafe at Machpelah. However, our first communal Jewish cemetery was established on the Mount of Olives in the time of King David, around 3000 years ago.

The Cemetery from the Emotional / Feelings Perspective

As we approach our family graves, emotions of sadness may overwhelm us as we remember our loved ones who have died. These feelings can bring a smile when we remember their legacy and how it has enriched our lives. Working through our emotions gives us a path forward as we work through our grief. 

The Cemetery from the Spiritual / Soul Perspective

Establishing a cemetery is more than a purchase of land. It is a spiritual commitment to our ancestors to honor them and to our descendants to show that a vibrant Jewish community existed here. Thus historically the creation of a cemetery has been one of the first and highest priorities for a new Jewish community. The land of the cemetery is usually considered holy, and a special consecration ceremony takes place on its inauguration.

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Deeper Understanding

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