The Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association (JCBA) opened two graves Sunday at its Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Millvale for the burial of prayer books and other ritual objects from the community.
Additionally, three headstones were unveiled during the gathering. Rabbi Eli Seidman officiated.
According to Jewish custom, frayed and worn-out prayer books such as siddurim (for Sabbath and festivals), chumashim (the Torah with commentary) and machzurim (High Holy Days) as well as copied pages with references to God are to be buried in the ground instead of thrown away. The same is true for actual Torah scrolls.
Wendy DeRoy, executive director of the JCBA, estimated 25 people were on hand for the burial of some 90 boxes of books and objects.
She said several synagogues served as collection points for the books.
“It was such a community effort,” DeRoy said. “Then we went around and picked up the books from the different synagogues.”
Book burials occur once every five years, she added, since the JCBA must donate the plots.
A nonprofit organization, the JCBA maintains orphan cemeteries that no longer have active congregations to take care of them. It also offers free burials and services for indigent Jews with no other place to be laid to rest. Chesed Shel Emeth is the site for those funerals.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)