Traditionally, Jewish communities have provided both physical care of their dead and places for their burial. Biblical references for this start with Abraham and his purchase of the Cave of Machpelach to bury Sarah. Historically a chevra kadisha and a cemetery often existed in a community before a synagogue building.
Hakafa has arrangements with the following two cemeteries (Click here for pricing information):
Shalom Memorial Park
In keeping with this tradition, shortly after Hakafa organized as a congregation in 1984, members arranged to have a Hakafa section at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights. It consists of approximately 120 gravesites, about 50 of which have been sold to congregational members for themselves and their families. Shalom offers traditional burial options in this section, as well as in other areas of the park, including family plots. Shalom also offers an interfaith section, which is at some distance from Hakafa’s section. A non-Jewish spouse/partner of a Hakafa member can be buried in the interfaith section next to a Jewish spouse, but may not be buried in the designated Hakafa area. Shalom has a columbarium for the “ashes,” known as cremains, left after cremation. Cremains can also be buried at any site throughout the Park, but following the aforementioned traditional restrictions regarding Jewish identity.
Willow Lawn Cemetery
In a effort to provide additional burial options for Hakafa members, plans have been investigated for a new site at Willow Lawn Cemetery in Vernon Hills, less than a 30 minute drive from Glencoe. Currently this interfaith cemetery has 2 areas consecrated for traditional Jewish burial, one of which allows headstones and one which allows only for memorial plaques level with the ground. Burial in these sections is restricted, in the same way as that at Shalom, to Jewish persons. There is an interfaith section right next to the Jewish sections, divided from them, as is traditionally done, by a hedge. Willow Lawn has a crematorium, for those who choose cremation. There is also a pet cemetery, Arrowwood, on the site.
We have the opportunity at Willow Lawn to open a new section which will serve two purposes. First, we can, as a congregation, consecrate an area in which non-Jewish partners and family members could be buried with a Jewish spouse. There is interest in this inclusive approach to community in other more liberal congregations in the area, whom we could invite to participate in this effort. Second, we can offer a “green burial” option. Green burial is a more ecologically sound method of burial which reduces the amount of non-decomposable and/or toxic materials put into the ground by eliminating concrete grave liners, large headstones, caskets with metal parts, and embalming fluids. It is less expensive than traditional burial, because those materials do not have to be purchased. It also has a lower environmental footprint than cremation, which requires carbon fuels and expels toxic wastes into the air. We can provide for burial or scattering of cremains in this new green Hakafa section for those who choose cremation.
Nationally, there are many large green cemeteries in all parts of the country; the closest to us is Forest Home in Milwaukee. There has been a small green section in Windridge Memorail Park in Cary, Illinois, for about 30 years. This cemetery is owned by Stonemor, the national company that also owns Willow Lawn; this is the only green cemetery in the Chicago area. The only specifically Jewish green cemetery area in the United States was consecrated in May 2010 in Forever Fernwood, a long-established green cemetery in Mill Valley, California.