Sherwood Park is a historically rich Jewish cemetery, approximately one-acre in size and, having reached its full capacity, home to nearly 200 graves. Many of Sherwood Park’s burials occurred in the 19th century, with the most recent burial occurring in the late 1960’s. A significant number of the stones extend over five-feet and reflect the popular monuments of yesteryear.
Fleetwood Synagogue, a thriving Modern Orthodox synagogue in suburban Mt. Vernon, learned of the stewardship vacancy upon the recent closure of Congregation Brothers of Israel. In consultation with its Rabbi, Gedalyah Berger, and with guidance from CAJAC, the synagogue’s Board of Trustees carefully examined the responsibilities associated with taking over the cemetery, and determined to accept this sacred trust as an extension of its congregational mission.
Fleetwood Synagogue’s assumption of management duties for Sherwood Park Cemetery highlights the Jewish community’s obligation of kevod ha-met, respect for the deceased. The commandment of kevod ha-met begins with a person’s passing and extends infinitely, placing a strong emphasis on the conscientious and honorable maintenance of cemeteries. The significance of Jewish burial grounds is first discussed in the book of Genesis, when our patriarch Abraham sought to obtain a place of burial for his beloved Sarah. “It is a source of deep spiritual satisfaction,” said Rabbi Berger, “to have the privilege of providing this kindness to those from our own community who passed away so long ago, fulfilling the hopes and expectations of fellow Jews who, time after time, stood solemnly and watched as a tombstone was unveiled to serve as a permanent echo of a beloved soul’s living presence among us. We are so very grateful to CAJAC for the expertise and counsel that have enabled our endeavor.”
CAJAC, a 501c3 charity committed to the preservation of Jewish cemeteries, lauds this transition as a remarkable accomplishment for the Jewish community. According to CAJAC’s Executive Director, Andrew Schultz, “Jewish cemetery preservation starts with proper governance, management, and stewardship. In addition to having the proper financial resources, Fleetwood Synagogue represents our assurance that the memories of those buried at Sherwood Park will be eternally honored.”