Liberal Judaism opens new ecofriendly burial site

People will be able to return to the earth, with natural habitats remaining undisturbed


Liberal Judaism has held its first consecration ceremony in more than 50 years, as rabbis and members of the movement gathered to open the organisation’s new ecofriendly burial site during Succot.

The new site is part of GreenAcres Chiltern, a natural cemetery and ceremonial park in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside, known for its beautiful woodland and focus on preserving the environment.

The new dedicated area, which is the second burial site owned by Liberal Judaism after Edgwarebury in north-west London, will provide space for 50 double-depth burials, as well as ashes interments.

Combining the consecration with a celebration of Succot, Rabbi Aaron Goldstein said: “It might seem strange to rejoice in consecrating a burial space, but as we walked round this new plot singing psalms and waving the arba minim — the lulav and etrog — it could not have been more appropriate.”

Rabbi Goldstein, who is one of the senior rabbis at The Ark Synagogue in Northwood, said: “This was our chance to rejoice in life and fulfil our duty to provide for the dead, comfort the mourner and ensure the future planet for our generations to come.”

Leading prayers alongside his son was Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, Liberal Judaism’s vice president, who has been in the rabbinate for 53 years.

The most senior member of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors told the JC: : “I have done countless baby blessings, b’nei mitzvah, weddings and funerals, so it was extra special, after all this time, to add another experience — dedicating a burial ground — and what an inspirational place!”

At the new grounds, members and non-members of liberal Judaism will be able to have what is known as “a green burial”, allowing the body to naturally decompose and return to the earth, with natural habitats remaining undisturbed. There will also be the option of a cremation at GreenAcres or a traditional burial at the other Liberal Judaism grounds.

Funeral services will be held in the site’s Woodland Hall, which looks out onto the forest.

Phil Stone, Liberal Judaism’s vice president and the chair of its cemeteries committee, said that the burial ground “aligned perfectly” with Liberal Judaism’s values.

“Firstly, in the concept of tikkun olam, which is the care and repair of the planet for future generations, the new site takes everybody back to nature, both the living and the deceased.”

Stone said that the burial ground reflected “inclusivity”, one of the core values of Liberal Judaism, by giving people “a new choice” in the way they were buried or cremated.

He added that the burial site would also be available to non-Jewish partners if a couple wanted to be buried together.

“Finally, our values align in honouring the dead and the bereaved by providing a burial space in a beautiful, peaceful and forward-looking environment,” said Stone. “Bereaved families will find it to be an inspiring place to visit a loved one.”

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