After years of planning, Jewish Memorial Gardens (JMG) has completed renovations to revitalize the Bank Street Cemetery.
The cemetery now has a new parking lot, an administrative building with washrooms, a series of sinks for netilat yadayim (hand washing), new paved walkways, new landscaping, a memorial for fallen Jewish soldiers from Ottawa, a special plaza for the Holocaust memorial, and a new gazebo overlooking the property.
JMG conducted a fundraising campaign in 2015 to undertake and then maintain the renovations. Of the almost $6 million raised, close to $4 million was spent on the renovations with the remainder placed in a trust fund to cover the yearly maintenance costs.
JMG Chair Jonathan Ben-Choreen Freedman said he was absolutely astounded by the generosity of the community.
“These renovations were absolutely crucial for ensuring the continued upkeep of this cemetery,” he said. “Obviously, no one likes going to a cemetery, but at least now it’s a peaceful place where you can visit, sit and reflect.”
Freedman also noted www.jewishmemorialgardens.org has a new feature that allows visitors to easily locate a grave by providing a picture of the tombstone as well as a map of how to get there.
Freedman said that, while he is pleased Ottawa’s two Jewish cemeteries are being properly maintained, he is worried about the maintenance of Jewish cemeteries in parts of Canada that no longer have sizable Jewish communities.
“We’re going to have to start a discussion at the national level about what we’re going to have to do with cemeteries that no longer have a Jewish community,” he said. “Even Cornwall has a Jewish cemetery, but they’re just a decade or two away from not having a sustainable community – and then what happens to the cemetery?”
Freedman said there are about 4,000 members of Ottawa’s Jewish community buried at the Bank Street Cemetery and another 750 buried at the newer Jewish cemetery in Osgoode. About 70 burials take place each year.
An open house at the Bank Street Cemetery is scheduled for Sunday, September 25, from 11 am to 5 pm, with a donor recognition ceremony at 11 am.