Greening Haolam Habah
(“Haolam Habah” = “The world to come,” a traditional euphemism for the afterlife)*
The Boston Globe today caught up with the green burial movement, a growing trend of individuals and funeral professionals moving towards more environmentally-friendly approaches to internment.
The section that caught my eye comes about half-way through the article:
[In Massachusetts] cemeteries set their own rules, and typically install concrete grave boxes to keep the landscape even, for easier maintenance, and prevent the ground from caving into a grave site. For Jewish burials, in which an unembalmed body is placed in the earth in a pine box, a cemetery will forgo the bottom of the concrete liner, allowing the casket to make contact with the dirt.
In 2006, when Rachael Stark of Arlington was trying to bury her husband in an environmentally friendly way at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, near the town’s center, she chose a Jewish burial, which is green by default.
“If I had said I want to do an eco-funeral,” said Stark, an environmentalist with Jewish roots, “I don’t know that the funeral home and cemetery would have respected that.”
So as the rest of the industry catches up to what Jewish tradition (and, I suspect, other traditions as well) already know, I wonder: will this be a new hook into Judaism for a different brand of seekers? Will (should?) the Jewish establishment exploit the environmental friendliness of Jewish burial as a way to entice more Jews towards (at least one slice of) Jewish observance? Or would that just feel icky?
* On a different note, I’m trying to be more conscious of the ways that my writing can limit the audience to an already-knowledgeable in-group. I’d like the content at Jewschool to be accessible to all who are interested, so I’m attempting to do my part by decoding Hebrew terms, Jewish jargon, etc. Thanks to Victor who has been asking for terms-definitions in the comments section for reminding me that not everyone speaks the Jewish Establishment Lingo.