Every traditional Jewish funeral has a particular set of customs that make it “Jewish,” such as using a kosher casket, performing a Taharah, and reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish. However, do you need to use a Jewish cemetery to have a Jewish funeral? What makes a cemetery Jewish anyways?
In Judaism, respect for the dead is considered a great Mitzvah, and thus many think of Jewish burial grounds as sacred spaces. This is why one of the first religious establishments built in new Jewish communities is a designated Jewish cemetery. Thus, one of the main characteristics of Jewish cemeteries are that they are community owned, operated, and maintained.
Another defining characteristic is that the cemetery must adhere to Jewish law. This may seem obvious to many, however, many cemeteries claim to be “Jewish” without actually following all the complex rituals surrounding keeping a burial ground kosher. For example, a Jewish cemetery must have physical boundaries that set the cemetery apart from its surroundings, have kosher graves that are at least forty inches deep, and display no ornate decorations, such a flowers or special monuments. Since keeping a Jewish cemetery kosher is so complicated, many non-denominational cemeteries are not able to properly maintained.
All this being said, actually using a Jewish cemetery for your Jewish burial is a matter of personal preference. We highly recommend using a Jewish cemetery to insure that your entire funeral is within halacha. However, if your family identifies as reform, having a Jewish funeral at a secular cemetery could also be a great option for your family. Austin, Dallas, and Houston Jewish Funerals has access to all cemeteries across Texas, regardless of religious affiliation.
If you would like information about Jewish cemeteries and Jewish funerals, contact one of our funeral directors today.