Bet Chaim Mikdash Shalom at Chapel Lawn Cemetery

By BERNIE BELLAN
The board of the Chesed Shel Emes has decided to begin allowing any Jews who have passed on and who wish to be buried in Bet Chaim Mikdash Shalom (which belongs to Temple Shalom) at Chapel Lawn Cemetery to have their bodies prepared in the Orthodox fashion for burial. Until now, only Jews who were to be buried in one of the Jewish cemeteries in the Winnipeg area (or who had expressed a wish to be buried in Israel or other communities that had Jewish cemeteries) have been able to have their bodies prepared for burial at the Chesed Shel Emes.

 

Here is the text of an announcement sent by Temple Shalom President Linda Freed to members of Temple Shalom congregation in the January/February bulletin:
“A major announcement: We recently received a letter from Chesed Shel Emes funeral home, saying that effective immediately ALL Jewish individuals, from ANY congregation (or those who are unaffiliated) are welcome at Chesed Shel Emes. They will provide mortuary and ritual services (Shmira and Tahara) as preparation for an in-ground burial.
“Should members of the Reform community choose the services of Chesed Shel Emes, then 6 Jewish males will be required as Pallbearers at the Chesed Shel Emes.    
“Should members of the Temple Shalom Reform community choose the services of Chapel Lawn Funeral Home, where our Beit Chaim Mikdash Shalom cemetery is located, then the Pallbearers (male or female) can be chosen according to the preference of the family, as accords with Reform Judaism practice.    
“It’s been a long time coming, and we are grateful... that the Chesed facility was supposed to be, is and always should be a place for all Jews in our community. For further details please contact the Temple Shalom office.”

Temple Shalom began using a section of Chapel Lawn Funeral Home in 2002 at the behest of its rabbi at that time, the late Rabbi Michael Levinson . In a 2011 article written by Rebeca Kuropatwa for this paper, Rebeca referred to then-Temple Shalom President Ruth Livingston in explaining how the decision to create a Jewish section at Chapel Lawn came about: “The new Jewish cemetery was established ‘in response to the inequity in the Jewish community at the time that prevented our interfaith families from being able to be buried together. There was a need for us to be able to provide Jewish burial for those members in interfaith marriages who wanted to access Jewish traditions with the option of being buried together.’
“Temple Shalom has a dedicated area at Chapel Lawn, and conducts funeral services at the synagogue or at the cemetery (depending on what people wish).
“ ‘Because of the perceived need for this service and judging by the response we’ve had so far by our membership and non-members, it’s definitely a welcome option in the Jewish community,’ said Livingston. ‘There are also some Jews who want to be cremated and...our [Reform] tradition allows that option.’
“The Temple’s space at Chapel Lawn has roads on two sides and hedges on the other two sides, so the area is distinct from the rest of the cemetery (which is what Livingston said makes it possible to be considered a Jewish cemetery).”

Also in 2011 Temple Shalom established its very own chevra kadisha (Jewish burial society). Again, here is how Rebeca Kuropatwa explained the decision by the Temple:
“According to Ruth Livingston, the move is in response to community requests for tahara (the ritual cleansing and preparation for the burial of the body of a Jewish person).
“ ‘At present, those being buried at our cemetery aren’t eligible for tahara through the community-owned Chesed Shel Emet,’ said Livingston. ‘We really appreciated the training from Rena Boroditsky at the Chesed in the process of establishing our Chevra.’
“The community owned Chesed Shel Emes would not accommodate intermarried couples or perform religious rituals on bodies buried at Chapel Lawn as it is an interdenominational cemetery.
“ ‘It’s not in keeping with what goes on in most of North America,’ said the Temple’s Judith Huebner. ‘In most cities if a Jewish family wants someone prepared for burial, the majority of Jewish funeral homes will do it and they don’t pay attention to what happens to the body once it leaves their home.’ “
Rena Boroditsky, executive director of the Chesed Shel Emes, said that the decision to allow any Jewish bodies to be brought there came about as the result of a consensus reached by the Chesed’s board of directors.
According to Lynn Roseman, who is a Genealogy Researcher and Board Member of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, as of May 2018, 83 individuals had been buried at Mikdash Shalom since 2002. As well, a number of Jewish individuals had been cremated at Chapel Lawn, but Lynn was not able to indicate exactly how many.

Here is a complete list of the number of Jews buried in various Jewish cemeteries in Winnipeg and other nearby communities, as of Dec. 31, 2017. (Information provided by Lynn Roseman.)
Shaarey Zedek. 10411
Rosh Pina. 2190
Hebrew Sick. 4021
BNay Abraham. 2571
BNai Israel, Brandon. 110
Morden Jewish Cemetery. 20
Bender Hamlet 15 (cemetery closed for burials)
Children of Israel, Transcona. 115 (cemetery closed for burials)
Shaarey Shamayim Interfaith (separate from SZ) 6
Chapel Lawn Temple Shalom Section 65
Thunder Bay 219
Regina 789
Grand Forks 289