There are a many types of Jewish cemeteries with varying levels of services and options relating to burials. The factors to consider when selecting a Jewish cemetery include, but are not limited to, types of services offered, geographic location, cost and type of memorials allowed. Jewish cemeteries are generally categorized based on level of observance, types of burials, services provided, and ownership structure. There are many Jewish burial practice options and classifications to help individuals with choosing the proper final resting place.

Purpose and Characteristics of a Jewish Cemetery

Each type of Jewish cemetery is designed and organized to reflect the local Jewish culture, traditions, and habits of the community it serves. Over time, societal changes, religious observances, together with other factors, including modern burial traditions and legal regulations result in a variety of Jewish cemeteries. The most common types of Jewish cemeteries include monumental cemeteries, memorial parks, and garden cemeteries.

Jewish Cemetery Types

  • All Jewish Cemeteries are typically owned and operated by a religious group or order in order to serve a specific Jewish community. There are many Jewish Cemeteries owned by specific congregations in the northeast, southeast, Midwest and west coast.
  • Partially Jewish Cemeteries / Jewish Section Cemeteries are cemeteries in which there are designated areas or sections that have a Jewish religious requirement. Within a larger cemetery, individual sections may have religious restrictions dictating the religious beliefs of individuals buried within specific sections of a given cemetery. Religious sections may vary in their level of required observance and practice. Some are very restrictive, allowing only known orthodox practitioners, whereas others operate according to general loose guidelines and principles of belief.
  • A Monumental Cemetery, or monument cemetery, is the traditional style of a cemetery that features upright headstones or other upright monumental memorials. These monument and headstones are typically granite, marble or a combination of stone and bronze. Many modern monumental cemeteries have designated certain sections for flat-lawn level memorials to allow for a lower-cost burial option.
  • The Memorial Park type of cemetery features lawn-level memorials in order to make the cemetery look and feel like a garden or a park. The use of lawn-level granite or bronze memorials allows for easier care, more natural beauty, and typically has lower costs. The memorial park concept was created in the 19th century and became popular in the 20th century.
  • The Garden Cemetery combines upright monuments with an attempt to incorporate a natural or garden like look and feel. Frequently, a garden cemetery will also be a botanic garden or arboretum.
  • Natural Burial Grounds emphasize minimal environmental impact funeral and burial practices. The specific rites and rituals allowed will vary based on the climate and topography of the area.
  • Green Burial Grounds are a specifically certified and monitored type of natural burial grounds. There are multiple levels of green burial based on the specific practices of the given cemetery.
  • VA Cemeteries are all open and welcoming to Jewish individuals. However, there is no religious section or Jewish area within a VA Cemetery. VA cemeteries are owned, operated, and controlled by the Veterans Affair Administration on both the state and national levels. Burial in a VA Cemetery is limited to those individuals who qualify for a veteran burial benefit regardless of religious affiliation.
  • Family Burial Grounds are privately held parcels of land specifically designated for the burial of members of the same faith and family. Family cemeteries were commonly used in rural America throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Located on family farms, family cemeteries are dedicated to a single family and are largely unregulated. Practical problems may arise with family cemeteries when family land is sold and access to the burial sites is lost. While some states have laws guaranteeing access to family graves, after a land is sold, many states do not.

Differences between Publicly and Privately-Owned Jewish Cemeteries

The cost of cemetery goods and services depends on the type of cemetery, type of burial, location of plot, memorialization, and perpetual care funding. Additionally, the cost of cemetery services will depend on the source of ongoing care and maintenance. VA and religious cemeteries may be self-funding or subsidized by the local government. Public cemeteries tend to have lower plot and service costs than private cemeteries. In general private cemeteries may have higher costs than public cemeteries. Private cemeteries are required to be financially self-sustaining for both its daily cemetery operations and for its ongoing care and maintenance.