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July 05, 2012 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-07-05

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encourage environmentally sustainable
deathcare and the use of burial as a new
means of protecting natural areas:'
"Through Green Burial, we follow unique
rules that assure that the cemetery section is
designated as a natural burial site — a green
nature forest preserve,' Dube said.
Hebrew Memorial Chapel also has just
become the first GBC-certified Jewish
funeral home in Michigan, following GBC
guidelines for burial and casket use.

Preserving Nature
"Hebrew Memorial Gardens is within Beth
Moses Cemetery, which was organized in
the 1920s," Dube said. "But in 2000, Hebrew
Memorial Park Cemetery was approached to
take it over, while retaining its original name.
"There are burials on the site, but the
quaint, little old cemetery is not being fre-
quently used for new ones anymore,' Dube
said."There's also a little chapel made of
beautiful stone with a wooden roof that will
be utilized in keeping with the green envi-
ronmental theme'
Traditional cemetery plots are designed
with graves located in rows to maximize
"In the rest of Beth Moses, cement delin-
eates boundaries',' Dube said. In contrast, he
said Hebrew Memorial Gardens' gravesites
will follow the natural pathways of the forest
without destroying natural growth.
"Instead of cement frames, tree limbs are
piled to give the graves a boundary" he said.
"Traditional monuments are cut by saw
and polished. Here they are dug out of the

8 July 5 • 2012

ground and not altered or polished, with the
individual's information engraved to mark
the gravesite."
During a burial at Hebrew Memorial
Gardens, natural Michigan wildflowers,
which continue to grow, will be placed into
the grave along with earth.
"The area has been designated for the
purpose of a natural preserve and will
remain one for perpetuity,' Dube said.
"The section is extremely serene, very
quiet and peaceful. The traffic sounds are
muted and, because of all the trees, on a hot
day it's cooler; birds can be heard chirping
everywhere. The plants attract rabbits and
"At one time this was farmland, but a for-
est grew up right in the middle,' Dube said.
"A beautiful little creek runs through it and
the common name for a group of trees that
grow there is 'trees to heaven:"

Getting Certified
Simply put, according to GBC, green burial
is a way of caring for the dead with minimal
environmental impact. "We are creating a
way for the woods to be preserved so we
don't have to use traditional maintenance
with mowing, fertilizers
and pesticides and can
still have a marker and
everything compatible
with Jewish law',' said Joe
Sehee, founder and exec-
utive director of Green
Burial, who recently
visited Hebrew Memorial
Joe Sehee
Gardens. "This is the first

opportunity for a Jewish facility to reclaim
end-of-life rituals. Seems like more Jewish
cemeteries should be lining up:'
GBC-certified cemeteries follow a set of
guidelines."Our protocols for a cemetery
indudes a biological review, making sure
that no rare habitat is destroyed and that
burials do not degrade the ecosystem" Sehee
"We don't use metal in caskets and don't
use vaults, which were originally created to
deter grave robbery. When we bury in a big
metal box, it compresses and settles. When
we use a wicker or bamboo casket or a low-
profile pine box, the compression takes place
at the time of interment."
According to Dube, "wood is a natural
product that will disintegrate, and the natu-
ral products that came from the earth are
then returned back into the natural environ-
ment. Metal, a man-made product, can even-
tually put by-productsethat are not natural
into the earth that may have a permanent
effect on the world around us.
"The caskets we will use are all wood with
non-toxic, non-hazardous materials, and
there are no metal indusions or artificial
stains or finishes used. Green burial requires
a white shroud, with no embalming allowed:

More Availability
Many of GBC's guidelines follow the lines of
Jewish tradition.
"The whole Jewish process of burial is
green:' said Jonathan Dorfman, an owner of
the Dorfman Chapel in Farmington Hills.
"A Jewish burial includes a simple, but-
tonless linen shroud that will go back to the

Where Beth Moses Cemetery's
traditional gravesites end, a wood-chip

walkway leads in to the new forested
Hebrew Memorial Gardens.

earth; a kosher casket
may have nails and other
fasteners, but caskets
without them are avail-
able. Less than 50 percent
of Jewish cemeteries
require a vault. Most
cemeteries are grass,
trees, flowers and earth
— nature.
"I applaud any effort
for a truly green cemetery that is a nature
preserve, but from religious preparation to
the choice of a casket, most Jewish cemeter-
ies conform to the Jewish burial rite, which is
already a green process:
Both the Dorfman Chapel and the Ira
Kaufman Chapel in Southfield use a green
system of emailed yarhtzeit notification
for those with computer access, something
Hebrew Memorial Chapel is in the process of
Most who are looking at burial options
may not ask specifically for a green burial,
but that doesn't mean they can't have the
components that it includes.
As is the case at Dorfman Chapel,
David Techner, a funeral director at the Ira
Kaufman Chapel maintains, "Anything that
is necessary for a green burial, we can do. We
have pine boxes, plain and without finish. I

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