Hi, this is Karen Brier, Grade 6A Judaics teacher at BJEP. Last week, the entire sixth grade took an extremely interesting and educational field trip to the JCAM Cemetery in West Roxbury. Since one of the academic themes for the year is Jewish Life Cycles, the students were able to really expand their knowledge about the traditions surrounding death in Judaism. It was a beautiful day when we arrived at the cemetery, and we were greeted by our tour guide, Lisa. Before beginning our tour of the Polonnoe Cemetery, we performed a short and meaningful Yom Hashoah (Holocaust) Commemoration ceremony. Students and parents alike each stepped forward to recite the name of a child who had died during the Holocaust, and placed a rock on the memorial in remember the child. In Judaism, we place rocks on graves and memorials instead of flowers. In ancient times, many rocks would be placed over a grave in order to ensure the safety of the body from predators. After the ceremony, we were guided to a short tour of the Zviller Cemetery, and learned about the various meanings behind different symbols on graves, in addition to various facts about the history of Jewish Cemeteries. We then proceeded to enter the Genizah, which is a storeroom to keep worn-out papers and books on which is written G-d’s Hebrew name. All of these documents are waiting to receive a proper ceremonial burial, and the genizah is where they are sorted and stored until they can be buried. We ended our trip with a short contest and goodie-bags. The children had been asked to remember facts throughout the tour for a chance to win a free t-shirt. Not a single question was missed, and all of the teachers and parents were thoroughly impressed. Overall, it was a fantastic day (not depressing at all!), and everyone learned so much about the traditions and customs surrounding Jewish burials.
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