On Sunday, January 6, 2019, in Lake Worth, Florida, the National Association for Chevra Kadisha (NASCK) consecrated a nonprofit cemetery dedicated to providing a dignified burial for every Jew, regardless of their level of observance or financial means.
One hundred rabbanim, South Florida chevra kadisha members, local funeral directors and other supporters joined NASCK staff from across the country to attend the chinuch beit hakevarot, cemetery consecration ceremony, for the first such community cemetery in over a century.
With its elegantly landscaped grounds, the South Florida Jewish Cemetery, just north of Boca Raton, Florida, looks just like the for-profit cemeteries in the area. The only difference? Its mission is to provide a beautiful and respectful burial, at the highest standards of halacha, for every Jew, including every meit mitzvah.
The cemetery is part of NASCK’s battle against cremation, a funeral option that already accounts for more than 50 percent of funerals nationwide, with that percentage nearing a staggering 80 percent in some states. The reasons people choose to cremate themselves or their loved ones are varied and often complex, but finances surely play a big part: cremation is simply cheaper than burial.
NASCK chose South Florida for the establishment of the cemetery because South Florida has the highest population of elderly Jews in the United States. Moreover, Florida ranks second in the country for number of cremations; only the more populous state of California ranks higher.
Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, founder and president of NASCK, explained at the consecration ceremony that the goal of the cemetery is not only to make kever Yisrael more readily available, but to use the cemetery as “a place that will educate Jewish people about the fact that they have an eternity, that they have a neshamah, that Judaism believes in an afterlife, and that the purpose of this life is the afterlife.
“We are hopeful that this consecration will be the beginning of a path that allows residents of South Florida to have kever Yisrael and all the benefits it brings, and that through the cemetery many more Jews will learn that their life is truly eternal. It is our hope that this will affect the meaning of their lives in this world as well, so that they can appreciate what is possible in just one moment of a life lived by the values of Torah.”
With the opening of the South Florida Jewish Cemetery, NASCK has partnered with foundations, funeral directors, chevrot kadisha, and individual donors from around the country to make sure that no Jew is robbed of the benefits of kever Yisrael due to lack of funds.
Photos and videos of this historic moment, as well as photos of the cemetery and renderings of buildings still in the planning stages, are available at nasck.org.