Bromley Reform Synagogue (BRS), a member of the Movement for Reform Judaism, conveniently located to serve Jewish individuals and families across south east London and north west Kent, has successfully secured 50 plots at GreenAcres Kemnal Park Cemetery for synagogue members and other Progressive Jews in South East London and the surrounding area.
The synagogue’s press release, issued on Monday, said that “with no other Jewish cemetery available in the region, the community needed to find a way to help those people who wanted to be laid to rest near their homes and families, but previously had no option but to be buried in a North London Jewish cemetery.”
Apparently, travelling to North London for funerals or graveside visits has been an ongoing struggle for the area’s active Jewish community, especially with the short notice for these burials, seeing as Jewish tradition requires a hasty burial within 24 hours of one’s passing.
With the GreenAcres Kemnal Park infrastructure already in place, BRS will lease 50 double-depth plots in a designated Jewish area for synagogue members, including Jews wishing to be buried with their non-Jewish partner or with the ashes of a cremated loved one.
“We know that many of our members are unable to travel to funerals or stone settings in North London and this was a cause of great distress, so we hope that having a local cemetery to which friends and family can more easily visit will be of enormous comfort and importance to many in our community,” said Janet Posner, BRS’ representative on the Jewish Joint Burial Society.
Despite the progressive attitude, according to the synagogue’s press release, the new Jewish cemetery will contain only Jewish symbols, and all markers and stones will be checked by Rabbi Mati Kirschenbaum to ensure it adheres to Progressive Jewish tradition.
The interment of non-Jewish remains would be carried out in a secular service led by the Rabbi, and the plots are available for use immediately through Bromley Reform Synagogue.
Rabbi Mati was born in Wroclaw, Poland. He grew up secular as his family kept their Jewish heritage a secret to avoid communist persecution. Mati got interested in religious aspects of Jewish life in his late teens. Upon graduation from high school, Mati moved to Warsaw to study economics and business. While at university, Mati spent extended periods abroad, studying and interning in Georgia (Caucasus), India and Russia. These sojourns abroad made Mati realize how much he cherished the sense of belonging that the Polish Jewish community offered him. Motivated by this sentiment, upon graduation, Mati pursued a career in the Jewish non-profit sector in Warsaw and contributed to the establishment of a Progressive congregation within the Jewish Community of Warsaw (from BRS’ Rabbi and Staff section online).