By Stephen Bindman
For Jewish Memorial Gardens
A major renovation plan is in the works to revitalize the Bank Street Cemetery.
The cemetery covers 14 acres. To date, more than 4,150 members of the Ottawa Jewish community have been buried there. In fact, many families have three generations represented at the Bank Street location. There is capacity for an additional 2,800 burial plots.
But the cemetery, founded in 1892, has been showing its age for quite some time. Renovations have been under discussion for many years, but other than some minor repair work, this is the first time there has been a comprehensive plan for its revitalization. The entire property poses safety and parking challenges, many headstones have gone into disrepair and much of the area shows a lack of investment.
A generous legacy donation by the late Irving and Ethel Taylor allowed for a thorough and comprehensive planning process that looked at both the current and future needs of the cemetery. Their son, Brent Taylor, is chairing a committee that has launched a full-scale revitalization project and fundraising campaign aiming to raise $5 million under the auspices of Jewish Memorial Gardens (JMG), the community agency charged with responsibility for both the Bank Street Cemetery and the newer Jewish cemetery in Osgoode Township.
“A cemetery is a place of solitude, of reflection, of mourning and of eternal peace,” said Taylor. “The revitalization will transform the Bank Street Cemetery into a more peaceful and respectful resting place for our loved ones, befitting the end of life’s journey.”
Other members of the fundraising committee include JMG Chair Jonathan Freedman, JMG Treasurer John Diener, and Honorary Chairs Roger Greenberg, Sol Shabinsky and Norman Zagerman.
Jonathan Freedman noted the importance of the project.
“We have a mitzvah of Velemdeta Levanechah, educating the next generation, by prioritizing the honouring of past generations. We can accomplish this by having our cemetery’s appearance and upkeep show that our generation has fulfilled its responsibilities to the cemetery, and our beloved who came before us,” said Freedman.
In addition to improvements in parking and roads, and a new Reflective Garden and Military Memorial, the fundraising campaign will create a minimum $1 million endowment through the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation to maintain the new improvements to the standard required, to ensure that landscaping and grass are maintained, and surfaces are cleaned and groomed regularly. This maintenance fund will also provide for future enhancements of the cemetery.
The committee hopes to complete the fundraising campaign by August 31, with construction beginning this month and finishing in December.
Donations may be made online at www.jewishmemorialgardens.org/bank-street-revitalization, by calling JMG at 613-688-3530, or by cheque made payable to The Jewish Memorial Gardens Revitalization Project and sent to Jewish Memorial Gardens, 21 Nadolny Sachs Private, Ottawa, ON, K2A 1R9.