How did it start?
Several years ago, two local Jewish mothers who had suffered pregnancy loss began to imagine a place where parents, would-be parents, and others could go to reflect, pray and mourn, and heal in response to their loss. They launched The Memory Garden project in recognition of the importance and value of Jewish memorial space and ritual for grappling with death and loss. The Memory Garden envisions normalization of Jewish community conversation, ritual practice, and acknowledgement of pregnancy loss.
According to Jewish law, no formal burial or funeral is held for a miscarriage, stillbirth, or for an infant who dies before reaching the age of 30 days, nor is the traditional seven-day mourning period of Shiva observed. Given the high infant-mortality rate of generations past, families would have been in mourning almost constantly without these proscriptions. While these customs were created to nurture and protect families, today we are less hesitant than generations past to speak frankly about our challenges, losses, needs, and aspirations. We are more likely to seek comfort and strength in not only speaking about our losses, but also in memorializing them, and often seek communal embrace and Jewish recognition of our losses.
WhO is It For?
The Memory Garden is for the entire Jewish Community. That includes individuals, couples, and families who identify as secular, or religious; those who are Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Orthodox, or post-denominational; people who do or don’t belong to congregations; men and women; young and old; the LGBTQ community; and interfaith couples.
Who Can visit?
The garden is open to any who grieve the deep loss of their unborn children. Whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or infertility, it is a space for mourning, remembrance, and healing.
Individuals, couples, and families who identify as secular or religious, Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Orthodox or post-denominational, those who identify as affiliated or unaffiliated, men and women, young and old, the LGBT community, and interfaith couples will all find The Memory Garden and its programming to be engaging. The Memory Garden is unique in that it is truly open to everyone in the community as the communal space for mourning and reflection.
Where is it Located?
Located in a beautiful setting at Eternal Home Cemetery, the Jewish cemetery in Colma, the garden is owned and operated by Sinai Memorial Chapel Chevra Kadisha and will serve as a place for clergy and spiritual caregivers to gather for healing rituals and ceremonies.
Do you Provide Additional Programs?
The Memory Garden will become the starting point for educational and outreach initiatives planned and implemented by a wider array of Jewish organizations, including Jewish Family and Children's Services and the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. These initiatives include support and programs for individuals and families suffering from pregnancy losses, opportunities to elevate communal conversation about the unique grief and isolation felt in fertility loss – known as “disenfranchised loss,” outreach to and education for medical professionals on culturally relevant and religiously sensitive information and referrals, and engagement of Jewish community professionals and clergy to enable them to better serve their constituents.
What is The Role of sinai Memorial chapel?
In 1901, early Jewish settlers in San Francisco established Sinai Memorial Chapel Chevra Kadisha as a nonprofit religious and charitable organization, with a mission not only provide Jewish burials and funerals, but to be an active participant in the larger Jewish community.
When Sinai was presented with the vision for the Memory Garden, it immediately embraced a leadership role in making it a reality. Sinai has always viewed the death of an infant as a community loss that requires a communal response - and provides funerals and burials in these instances without charge.
Sinai is donating a section of Eternal Home Cemetery in Colma, which is operated by Sinai, for the Memory Garden and is overseeing its design, creation, and maintenance.