Opening La Puerta del Cielo
Natural Jewish Burial: A Jewish woman died in Albuquerque last week. She was not just anyone; she was a very special person with whom Abq Jew became acquainted, alas, only after her death.
When a Jew dies in Albuquerque, his or her remains are usually delivered to a local funeral home, where those remains are prepared for burial.
The funeral home usually works with a local rabbi to schedule a funeral service, and often (not always) calls in the Chevre Kaddisha (Jewish Burial Society) to wash, purify, and dress the deceased, and place him or her in a kosher casket.
The deceased is then usually transported to a local cemetery, where the funeral service is performed and the deceased is buried.
All of this is done with dignity and respect.
And all of this (except, of course, the services of the Chevre Kaddisha) costs money.
The family of the special person whom Abq Jew met last week did not have enough money to follow the "usual" procedure.
In such a case, what is the responsibility of the Albuquerque Jewish community? And how does the Albuquerque Jewish community fulfill that responsibility?
Respectful treatment and burial of the dead
is one of the greatest mitzvot.
When the family of the deceased cannot perform this mitzvah for financial reasons, the Albuquerque Jewish community - through the Jewish Federation of New Mexico - steps in.
Through the JFNM's Indigent Burial Fund, the mitzvah of
kavod hamet כּבוד המת (honoring the dead) is fulfilled.
The JFNM's kosher pine caskets are usually procured through Fathers Building Futures, a local organization that helps
ensure parents and families experiencing barriers from incarceration have the best opportunities for stability - emotionally, socially and financially.
This project has been inspired by the courageous men who have, and who will continue to, overcome obstacles in order to succeed as providers for their children and community.
And JFNM's burial plots? While Fairview Memorial Park in Albuquerque and Vista Verde Memorial Park in Rio Rancho still have some plots available for Jewish burials, there is a new alternative: La Puerta Natural Burial Ground -
a 40-acre private, serene, conservation burial site at the base of the Manzano Mountains. Fully certified by the national Green Burial Council, La Puerta's mission is to ensure low cost, environmentally sound, and respectful burial for all.
La Puerta is located about 15 miles southeast of Belen. That's about an hour's ride from downtown Albuquerque - about half an hour on I-25, a quick swing through Belen, and then onto Highway 47.
Yes, it's a bit of a schlep, but the reward for those visiting La Puerta is blue sky, beautiful mountains, acres upon acres of magnificent open fields ... and trains.
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway runs through Belen and then heads southeast, crossing Highway 47 just north of the La Puerta turnoff.
The 40-car, 60-car, 80-car freight trains that move across the tranquil La Puerta horizon - silently and powerfully - only add to the serenity of the place. The trains convey continuity - a feeling that, whatever happens, we will go on.
For the very special lady Abq Jew helped bury last week - well, her family (also very special) said she would have been pleased. Which is all we can ask for.
The JFNM has been proud to assist in the proper Jewish burial of several indigent New Mexicans during the past few months. But -
The Indigent Burial Fund is almost empty.
Can you help the JFNM perform this important mitzvah?
Click here to donate to the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, and please direct a portion of your contribution to the Indigent Burial Fund.
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