jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Cemetery

Consecrated Ground

It has always been considered extremely important to purchase a cemetery plot during one's lifetime and to be buried in the sanctified grounds of a Jewish cemetery in fulfillment of “and to the dust you shall return / ואל עפר תשוב”‎ ‎ (Genesis 3:19). Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people, paid an exorbitant sum of money for Maarat HaMachpelah / מערת המכפלה - an ancestral burial plot in the ancient city of Hebron in the Land of Israel. Likewise, Joseph was buried in the family plot that his father Jacob had acquired in the city of Shechem.

A Jewish cemetery, which is called Beit Kevarot / בית קברות or Beit Almin / בית עלמין, is consecrated ground. It is usually consecrated in a special ceremony. A Jewish cemetery is located on land purchased by a Jewish community for exclusive use as a Jewish cemetery. It has always been and continues to be the custom of Jewish communities to purchase land for a synagogue, a school, as well as a cemetery when settling in a new country. The purchase contract always stipulates that the plot designated as a Jewish cemetery is to be used exclusively for Jews.

Individuals usually purchase plots in the Jewish cemetery through their synagogue or as part of pre-need funeral arrangements offered by Jewish funeral homes. In most states the law provides that any prepaid funeral expenses must be placed in a trust account and are fully refundable at any time prior to the funeral. Jewish funeral homes also offer payment plans, which usually involve purchasing funeral insurance.

When individual families purchase plots in the Jewish cemetery, their burial rights must be permanent. The Jewish cemetery is not permitted to exercise any authority with regard to removal of the remains from any grave. A Jewish cemetery is separated from unconsecrated ground by a wall, fence or solid hedge and has separate entrance gates.