May 2020

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The memorial park continues to be available to families during their time of need and recently marked their 2000th burial. Lo- cated in Clarksburg, Maryland in upper Montgomery County, the Garden of Remembrance (Gan Zikaron) Memorial Park exists today due to the vision and plan- ning of the clergy and lay leaders in the greater Washington, DC Jewish community. In the early 1990s, there was a need for a Jewish cemetery to re- place the historic, nearly filled, and inconvenient cemeteries founded in Southeast Washing- ton over a century ago. The Jew- ish leaders envisioned a new, non-profit memorial park that would serve all denominations of Judaism as well as unaffiliated Jews and become sacred ground for the community in the 21st Century. In the fall of 2000, the Wash- ington Hebrew Congregation (WHC) opened the Garden of Remembrance (Gan Zikaron) Memorial Park to accommo- date the needs of a diverse Jewish community. The WHC is historic in its own right. The congregation was estab- lished in 1852, when the streets of Washington were unpaved and the Capitol building was only half fin- ished. The WHC is attended by Reform Jews in the Washington, DC area. Their website describes their congregation as a “vibrant community that is as diverse as it is inclusive, as large as it is intimate, as concerned with the world as it is with the needs of every individu- al; it is a community that is caring and compassionate.” The Garden of Remembrance Memorial Park represents that diversity. The cemetery is man- aged by a dedicated board of Jew- ish community leaders; has an advisory committee consisting of rabbis, synagogue executive di- rectors, and lay leaders; and in- cludes 26 partner congregations that represent Conservative, Or- thodox, Reform, and Recon- structionist congregations. Indi- vidual synagogue sections have been established and maintained within the cemetery’s bounds. The first burial at Garden of Remembrance took place on November 8, 2000. Not quite 20 years later, the memorial park marked its 2000th burial. “The Garden of Remembrance is a gift to the Jewish commu- nity,” explains Hank Levine , past-president of Washington Hebrew Congregation and cur- rent President of Garden of Re- membrance. “While one congre- gation led its construction, all of our partner congregations, their members, and unaffiliated mem- bers of the Jewish community benefit from this beautiful set- ting and will continue to use it for generations to come.” Those buried in the memorial park are a varied representation of the Jewish community. Some were successful business profes- sionals and prominent members of society. Others were indigent and relied on the Garden of Re- membrance Free Burial Fund to cover their funeral expenses. The memorial park is the final resting place for prominent aca- demics and government officials – and for some who had little formal education but succeeded nonetheless. The community has said goodbye to many who had reached their 100th birthdays, and tragically, it has also buried infants in a special section of the cemetery reserved for young chil- dren. While the 2,000 individu- als who have been buried at Gan Zikaron comprise a very diverse group, Jewish tradition teaches that all are equal in death. Some prominent individu- als have been buried in the Gar- den of Remembrance Memorial Park. Rabbi Joseph Weinberg , z”l, was the Senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congre- gation when the Garden of Re- membrance discussions began. He did not live to see his vision realized but rests in the cemetery that he conceived. The recent- ly deceased founding executive director of Gan Zikaron, Shel- don Grosberg , z”l, established the high standards of Garden of Remembrance and built many meaningful community relation- ships. He was laid to rest in the memorial park and was nearly the 2,000th burial. Unique headstones can be found throughout the rolling hills of the memorial park. Some have interesting engravings, such as Jewish symbols, poems, en- dearing nicknames, sports em- blems, family photographs, and other touching memories. Gar- den of Remembrance itself is the region’s largest non-profit sell- er of memorial headstones and footstones. “What impresses me the most about Gan Zikaron,” relates Rab- bi Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congrega- tion, “is not only that it is one of the most beautiful and serene cem- eteries in the area, but the compas- sion and dignity that is provided through the staff is like no other cemetery I have worked with.” As part of its founding mission, the memorial park is commit- ted to giving back to the com- munity, a goal it strives to meet through contributions to many of its partner congregations and Jewish institutions throughout the greater Washington Jewish community. Garden of Remem- brance is the only cemetery part- ner of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and belongs to various associations represent- ing both Jewish and general cem- eteries and funeral care. “Our goals for the next decade are to build a beautiful chapel on the cemetery grounds, work towards financial sustainability, expand our contributions back to the community, and main- tain our high standards of fam- ily care,” says Easton. “The fore- most ‘mitzvah’ [commandment] of Jewish tradition is honoring the deceased with an act of lov- ing kindness that can never be repaid. The Garden of Remem- brance gives us this opportunity for ‘kavod hamet,’ revering our loved ones while assisting and comforting the bereaved.” While it took nearly twen- ty years for Garden of Remem- brance (Gan Zikaron) Memorial Park to reach its 2,000th buri- al, the Board projects reaching the 4,000th burial within a de- cade and the 10,000th burial by 2050. Fortunately, over 50,000 burial sites will eventually be available at the 152-acre memo- rial park, ensuring that the needs of several generations of Jewish Washingtonians will be met. Garden of Remembrance Traditionally, when some- one passes away, friends and relatives gather to pay their respects, a service is held, and sometimes loved ones travel to the cemetery to say one final goodbye prior to the burial. However, with government and health of- ficials recommending self- isolation as well as current crowd restrictions in place, a traditional funeral is un- attainable. Yet people still wish to pay their respects when they lose a loved one. Garden of Remem- brance (Gan Zikaron) Memorial Park has faced