Bromley Reform Synagogue is to open a new Jewish cemetery for the community in the south-east of London, marking the only active Jewish cemetery in the region.
It comes after BRS secured 50 plots at GreenAcres Kemnal Park for Progressive Jews, giving the area’s Jewish community a long-sought local option.
Jewish families in the south-east and Kent must currently tackle heavy traffic to reach north London for funerals and graveside visits, often at short notice, as Jewish tradition requires burial within 24 hours.
“The community needed to find a way to help those people who wanted to be laid to rest near their homes and families, but previously had no option but to be buried in a north London Jewish cemetery,” said a BRS spokeswoman.
“For many years, BRS has been seeking a solution to this challenge, especially as it often inevitably arises at a very difficult time for newly bereaved families.”
Bromley’s newly ordained Rabbi Mati Kirschenbaum said opening the cemetery in Kemnal Park would “enable us to arrange burials in a dedicated Jewish space easily accessible to our congregants and allow us to be inclusive of mixed-faith couples who are members of our synagogue”.
Kirschenbaum said the cemetery would be “for the whole of the south-east’s Jewish community,” adding: “It is something our members have wanted for many years, and the fact we have been able to establish it now reflects the dynamism of our area’s Jewish population.”
GreenAcres Kemnal Park is a well-established cemetery with different areas dedicated to people of different faiths and none, including Muslim communities who have the same requirements for same- or next-day burials as in Judaism.
The park and BRS agreed to lease 50 double-depth plots in a designated Jewish area for BRS members and the local Jewish community “including Jews wanting to be buried with a non-Jewish partner or the ashes of a cremated loved one”.
Janet Posner, the BRS representative on the Jewish Joint Burial Society, described the park as “a beautiful, green space,” adding: “It is very special that we are able to design our own gated area within the cemetery, where, in accordance with Jewish tradition, all graves will face Jerusalem.”
She said many BRS members have been unable to travel across the city for funerals or stone settings and that “this was a cause of great distress, so we hope that having a local cemetery to which friends and family can more easily visit will be of enormous comfort and importance to many in our community”.
The new Jewish cemetery will contain only Jewish symbols, with all markers and stones checked by Rabbi Kirschenbaum. The interment of non-Jewish remains will be carried out in a secular service led by the rabbi, and BRS said the plots were available for use immediately through the shul.