Congregation Shaarey Zedek Announces Opening of
Shaarey Shamayim Jewish Interfaith Cemetery
Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Western Canada's largest Conservative Jewish synagogue, has completed construction on the first Conservative Jewish interfaith synagogue based cemetery in Canada. The new cemetery which opened on January 30, 2012 on Main Street at Armstrong Avenue in Winnipeg, is named Shaarey Shamayim, the Hebrew term for Gates of Heaven.
The new interfaith cemetery was created to serve a growing need in the community: "A number of our members are not Jewish and this will ensure that they will be able to be buried with their spouse", according to Executive Director Ian Staniloff. "Our objective has been to develop a plan which respects Jewish standards and traditions, yet allows the burial of Jews and non-Jews together."
"The challenge has been to balance the traditional requirements of Jewish burial with the demographic reality of interfaith families and the need to provide comfort for the mourners."
Rabbi Green led the extensive research, conducted by the clergy of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, into best practices in other communities across North America. As a result, a detailed set of policies and procedures have been developed in consultation with other authorities in the Winnipeg Jewish community.
"We are serving a growing need in our community. The Winnipeg Jewish community numbers about 16 thousand and up to 70% of our young people are marrying outside the faith," Staniloff explains." This opportunity will be made available to synagogue members and non-members alike."
"In the past, the Jewish spouse was forced to make a decision - either be buried by themselves in a Jewish manner in a Jewish cemetery or be buried with their partner elsewhere."
To maintain Jewish tradition in regard to the adjoining Shaarey Zedek Cemetery, the interfaith cemetery is surrounded by a roadway and a wrought-iron fence. It has its own separate cemetery entrance from the public roadway and its own gate.
The detailed burial policies for interment in Shaarey Shamayim, outline information regarding the process involved for the non-Jewish deceased. Jews who are buried in the interfaith cemetery will continue to have traditional Jewish funeral services.
Congregation Shaarey Zedek is Western Canada's largest conservative Jewish congregation, with more than 1,000 family units and 3,500 members and is acknowledged as a progressive leader in the Jewish community.
In addition to being the first to establish its own interfaith cemetery, Shaarey Zedek was the first Conservative Synagogue in Canada to welcome Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews with full rights and privileges including family membership, burial rights and performance of marriages. Shaarey Zedek was also the first Winnipeg Conservative Synagogue to adopt Egalitarian practices in the 1970s.
Shaarey Zedek has also been an innovator in providing an online audio broadcast of regular services in the synagogue. Members who are traveling and drop-in visitors world-wide are welcome to join the only such online broadcast in Canada at www.szwinnipeg.ca. The synagogue is also exploring the video broadcast of services and educational classes.
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