Judy Terry - I would like to introduce the members of the Cemetery Committee and David Turocy, Superintendent of Highways and Grounds.
The very first thing I would like to do is to make sure that we all understand the area in town that we are talking about -- the new section of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I would like to get you oriented. After we give you a little background about the process that we have been going through for the last year, I will present the draft proposal that we have put together. I hope you've had a chance to pick up a copy. Then we will open it up for discussion. I don't think that this is going to take very long to go through the background.
We have a map of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and this is the old section, Bedford Road is down here. This is the corner of Partridge Lane. All of this land is owned by the cemetery. This is wetlands into this area and the new Sleepy Hollow North Cemetery is what I'm outlining here right now. This is Asparagus Farm, the farm building and the housing is this area. This is Sleepy Hollow North that we are discussing this evening, just to orient you, it is part of Phase I of Sleepy Hollow North. It continues on up here and we will be looking at that later on.
The old section of Sleepy Hollow, a very small part of it was opened in 1823 and it was called the New Burying Ground. Authors Ridge was opened in 1855 and those two cemeteries make up what we now call Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Just to give you some idea of the size, the old section of Sleepy Hollow is 30 acres. It has approximately 6,000 grave sites in it. Sleepy Hollow North, the new cemetery, that we will opening hopefully in a year and a half is about 15 acres and it will have a grave capacity of 3,700 graves.
In the past year while the Cemetery Committee has been considering a Jewish section of Sleepy Hollow North, we have learned that religious Jews have no other option but to be buried in consecrated ground that is marked as separate from unconsecrated burial ground. A request for the inclusion of a consecrated Jewish section in Sleepy Hollow North was made in 1989 when the development of the cemetery expansion was first discussed. Because development of the expansion area was postponed, a decision by the Cemetery Committee concerning the Jewish section was similarly postponed.
The topic has been raised again by Norma Shapiro at the Committee's April 11, 1996
meeting. At the Committee's request, Norma presented at the October 10, 1996 meeting a
formal proposal on behalf of the Jewish community for the development of an area consecrated
for Jewish burials in Sleepy Hollow North. At this meeting, Committee members and members of the public identified issues that needed to be addressed to help the Committee make a decision as to the appropriateness of such a section. In subsequent meetings the Committee and representatives of the Department of Public Works reviewed the technical issues presented and arrived at tentative resolutions if the policy decision to proceed with such a section were adopted. It was determined that there are no significant technical issues that could not be met with minor accommodations and that there would be little or no additional cost to the town from including such a section for Jewish burials. The Committee determined that a significant change such as this most appropriately would be determined by the Board of Selectmen and that the role of the Committee would be to recommend to the Selectmen whether to proceed.
We plan to vote on a recommendation at our April 17 meeting, which is next Thursday night, and I believe we will be on the Selectmen's schedule to make a recommendation at their meeting on Tuesday, April 22. [This meeting was changed to May 12.]
We needed to understand the requirements of a Jewish section. A consecrated Jewish section must be separated from other sections by at least six feet and with a physical barrier such as shrubs, pathway, roadway or fence. A Jewish cemetery should be dedicated with a service and special rites before any burial occurs. The graves should be large enough so that there is two feet between coffins. Sunday burials may be necessary because there is no embalming and Jewish law requires prompt burial after death usually within 24 hours. No Jewish burials are permitted on the Jewish sabbath which is Saturday or on Jewish holidays. No human images or figures are permitted on gravestones or in the section. Non-Jewish religious symbols are religious expressions which likewise are not be permitted. No disinternments from Jewish graves would be permitted without rabbinical or judicial approval.
We had a meeting on October 10 to discuss the proposal and at that meeting at which a number of people attended that meeting, we identified a number of issues that would have to be considered as we worked our way toward the development of a possible proposal. Based on the proposal from Norma Shapiro and from what we learned of what was necessary in order to have a consecrated Jewish section in the cemetery, these are the items that we identified as being issues: the location and size of the section; the size of individual graves; whether we could accommodate Sunday burials, in the past we have not done this; how we would handle the requirement for quick burial, at this point we have a 36-hour requirement and we would have to make some accommodations in order to accommodate the quick burial need; we would have to change the deed and monument permits to reflect the descriptions on the stones in the Jewish section; how would we accommodate similar requests from other groups and were there other groups that might be making similar requests; is there an interest in the community and what is the scope of this interest; is it legal to have a Jewish section in a town owned cemetery?
David Turocy - There are two different issues. One is the impact on the cemetery layout itself, the physical needs of the section, and the second question is the impact on cemetery operations. When you look at the layout, there are four questions that we had to answer: size of the graves, size of the area, separation methodology and location. Size of the graves is an issue because there should be two feet of separation between the caskets. Simply a casket is two foot by seven foot. Our standard grave size is 3 1/2 feet. That would not be quite enough room to have two feet between the caskets in each successive burial space. We had to look at increasing the size and increase it to four foot by ten burial space without a real significant impact on the cemetery layout itself. There would be of course some fewer graves, but we can still measure a four foot by ten foot area in that section. The size of the area to be set aside Judy had mentioned in Sleepy Hollow North is planned to have 3700 graves. We could possibly increase that by some method. I looked at the largest number possible and 5000 graves might be possible in all of our expansion area. Considering the Jewish population is about 3% that means I need 150 graves in this area. I also believe that there is a pent up demand since we haven't sold any like this so I'm sure initially there will be an increase in graves sold so I should count on more than 150. So I looked for an area that would fit between 200 and 250 graves. The third question was separation methodology and as Judy mentioned that could be a road or shrubs. It doesn't have to be a gated area. I know there are some misconceptions out there that people have. Perhaps what I should best do is discuss the separation methodology and the location at the same time.
This is Bedford Street, this is the Asparagus Farm, this is the plan of Phase I of Sleepy Hollow North, this is the entrance off Bedford Street. This is a little secondary road to the housing authority housing here. This is just access to their road. That is only going to be open when there are actual funerals. That will have a chain across it and won't be used normally. The lightly shaded portion here is Phase I that we want to develop first. That should get us through the first 10 years so that is the part that we are going to concentrate on developing initially. This is where we're going to have all of the burials in the first ten years we're in operation. What I recommend is this spot right here for a proposed Jewish section, particularly those first two areas there. That is about 100 graves there and if you take all that area, it is about 250. I'd like to develop those first two areas and get about 100 graves in there before we move on. This would do a number of things putting it here.
We've got separation methodology in that we've got the road here and there and up there. There are no plans to develop here or here. So we don't need to do a significant amount of changes to provide any separation. Along this edge there is a eight-foot path that is already included in our plans. What we'll do is plant some shrubs there to provide greater separation. So that's the only thing that we physically have to change with our plan right now to provide any of the separation, so it could be very easily done. Now the choice of where to put this, I chose this section for several reasons. One, it's very close to where we are developing right now. It's not off in a corner, it is very much an integral part of Sleepy Hollow North Phase I that we are working on. Second, it also provides a lot of time to determine size. It gives us plenty of room to expand all of this part of the elipse and we can come down and expand it here and come back around here. By that time we will have a much better feel for it. Is it sized just right? Do we need to increase it? In which case we could take those shrubs out and move it this way or if it is too big, we can move the shrubs in that way. So it gives us a lot of time before we have to make any decisions. The third thing, it is a very attractive area. As I mentioned, it is right where we're going to be developing right across in this phase. This elipse has a ceremonial center that is kind of the centerpiece of this cemetery. It's very close to that and I think it is an attractive part to put it in. I think it works out very well in that it is easy to incorporate in our design, it's very attractive and it gives us a lot of time to look at any options in terms of size change.
The next thing we had to look at was the impact on operations - the accommodations necessary for Sunday burials as currently we don't have any Sunday burials. We do it on Saturday. There is an overtime charge and that's passed on to the customer. We looked at it if this is necessary, we do it and we do it just in this section. Initially we had a two parcel division that would be quite a burden to be available every weekend if this comes up, and we've got some reorganization in Public Works, we have some more people available that could help out so we think we could meet the demand of the Jewish community for Sunday burials, and we also think it appropriate that if we could open it up for Jewish burials that we could open it up to anyone who wants to be buried on Sunday. I don't expect there will be a lot of demand for that. We've talked to some people who tell us that typically Sunday is not the day that is chosen, so it shouldn't be a significant impact, but I think we can support that. We'll work with anyone in the community to support Sunday burials. Again there will be overtime charges that will be passed on but I'll have the people available.
There is a 36-hour notification policy. I would like to maintain that as a baseline and I'm still going to say we need 36 hours, but in all cases we will try to work with the individuals. If we can deal with it in 24 hours by all means, we will do that. I have some concerns in the winter time. If there is a lot of frost in the ground, it just takes at least 12 hours before you can put in a machine to actually thaw out the ground so we can dig it. So we reserve the right to keep that 36 hours in there, but I can tell you we will work with anyone if there really is a need to do it in less than 36 hours.
Changes necessary on cemetery fees - this is very simple. I've got a copy of the permit. It basically outlines all the requirements and all that we're going to do is add one line to it that says anyone buried in this section refer to cemetery rules and regulations. That part will discuss about no human images or whatever other requirements are needed. So there won't be a significant change to the permit. It will be spelled out in the regulations itself.
Requirements for other denominations for separate sections. We don't know what the requirements are. I've talked to other public cemeteries who have a Jewish section and they have had other similar requests. We don't know of any other groups that may want one, but if that comes up, we're willing to look at it exactly the same way we're looking at this issue, on a case-by-case basis, look at the impact on the cemetery or cemetery operations and we will make a decision based on that. We can't anticipate any because I haven't heard of any such requirements as of yet.
The financial impact - again I look at two things. The first is in terms of development. We are going to grade off that area and do all the contour sculpting and seeding when we do the rest of the cemetery, so that's not going to increase any cost to us. We will have to plant some more shrubs but I think that is also to be incorporated in the cost. We've got a lot of trees and shrubs that are going in the cemetery so to add some more won't be a significant change to that. The second part is the grave size. As I said instead of 3 1/2 by 10, these graves are 4 by 10. I think it is probably appropriate that we would increase the cost of those graves, and we would do it based on the size ratios. These graves would be 8/7s the size of what we currently use, and for example, our rates right now are $800, $400 for the lot and $400 for special care, but just for discussion sake if you round it to $1000 for our standard gravesite, this would increase it to $1143 so I will be proposing an increase just proportional to the increase of footage in that gravesite. I think it is also consistent with some of our other new sections because we're also talking about we have different rates for different lots. We have one area that is right by a pond and when we laid out this cemetery expansion, those are premium lots because of the view, they are being charged more. It is an important topic and again I just want to raise the issue that we've already looked at, there must be some fluctuations in the rate. So this is not something totally different just for this section. I don't think that is a very significant issue.
Judy Terry - What I'd like to do now is to walk you real briefly through the draft proposal. I hope everyone has a copy of it and then we'll open up the meeting for questions or comments. We have as David told you identified a site. Initially it was 100 graves, and it is set off by the road and by the paths and there is potential for expansion. The consecration that is required by the Jewish community, the arrangements for that will be the responsibility of the Jewish community. The grave size will be 4' by 10' and the cost of the gravesites will be reflected by the larger size of the grave. Sunday burials can be accommodated. This option will be available to all denominations and there will be overtime charged to the users. Burial within 24 hours will be accommodated if possible. The gravestones in this consecrated area will have no human images or figures and there will be no non-Jewish religious symbols or expressions. The town's responsibility for administering this area will be to inform all potential buyers of the existence of the section, we will inform potential buyers of the additional cost and inform potential buyers of the gravestone limitations. As listed on the board and described by me, all the other rules of the Town cemetery will apply. That's the proposal and that is the background, and now I would like to open it up for everyone who has come this evening to comment if they so wish. I'd like you to identify yourself so that we know who is here, and if you feel comfortable and would like to be heard a little more clearly on the tape, this microphone is not to project your voice but is for the video tape. Feel free to comment, that's why we're here. That's why we're having the meeting, we'd like to hear what interested people would like to tell us. Susan Shaw, Bedford Road - My question is how when everything else is separated, church and state, how can you take a section of town owned land and give it to any one? I don't understand how that can be done?
Mitch Eckel - I am an attorney so I got delegated the opportunity to address this issue. First, let us say that town counsel has reviewed it and has told us there is no problem. We don't view this as taking public property for private purposes. We view it as basically extending what appears to be a minor accommodation and we will allow others to be buried in there as well. So the answer is we don't see it as a taking of public property. It's simply an accommodation for a sizeable minority of the community that otherwise cannot be buried here, at least if they want to observe their religious tradition.
There are all sorts of uses of property that have minor accommodations for groups of one form or another. One of the things that is interesting is that you may have seen a year ago there was a case involving the creche and whether it could be put on public property. The short answer was well, the creche can be viewed as something other than a religious symbol. We don't think that this is anything more than a minor accommodation. If other non-Jewish persons want to be buried within that section, they can be. All they have to do is conform to the rules. We are basically excluding the Jewish community that is religious if we don't make these somewhat minor accommodations.
David Stephens, Philip Farm Road - It seems to me that in all the parks and cemeteries you have equal access without prior restrictions or prior requirements to sites for burial. This is an exception to that. To be buried in this spot you are required to adopt the restrictions imposed on all who are buried in that site. That is a constraint on access.
Judy Terry - If I'm understanding your question correctly, we already have some restrictions on other sites. We are certainly able to restrict what is on gravestones. We restrict the sizes of gravestones at this time in certain areas. It is part of our mandate to write the regulations for the gravesites in our cemetery, and this happens to be something that we think is necessary to include. Would anyone like to speak to that? Anyone else like to speak to that or disagree with me?
The town counsel did not find that there is a problem with this. His research found nothing that would prevent Concord from allowing a section of Sleepy Hollow North to be consecrated as a Jewish cemetery. Any other comments?
Polly Atwood, Co-Chair, Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council - I would like to make a statement on behalf of the Human Rights Council. "We are fortunate, in Concord, to have many residents who are members of the Jewish community. They are citizens of Concord, and pay taxes - as we all do. Their taxes pay for municipal services that we all receive - schools, police and fire departments, etc. The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is part of that package in that it's use is available to any Concord resident. At present, members of the Jewish community can be buried there only if they waive the conditions specifically required by the customs and practices of their faith, a faith that defined their lives and culture while living.
The questions of exclusiveness and exclusion have been raised in relation to this proposal; at present, the only people excluded from Sleepy Hollow are those whose religious rituals are incompatible with the current layout and regulations of the cemetery. Accommodation to allow people freedom in religious practice is just and fair - just as accommodation for equal access to buildings for persons with disabilities is recognized as just and fair by the law. The proposal put forward by the Committee adjusts the regulations so that all Concord residents are afforded the same opportunity to be buried in the community in which they have lived, and with the rites of their faith.
The C-CHRC Executive Board urges the Committee to recommend implementation of the proposed Jewish section to the Concord Board of Selectmen, and urges the Selectmen, in their turn, to act on that recommendation."
David Orlinoff, Main Street - Nine years ago this month I was privileged to stand right over there and address the Planning Board and other town bodies to propose our plans to build a synagogue. I was very proud to say that then and since the Town of Concord has been very supportive of the Jewish community. The requirements that we have laid out are appropriate to the Jewish population of Concord. I think as Polly suggests in her statement from the Human Rights Council that this proposal reflects the very enlightened approach by the Town of Concord to try to meet the needs of all citizens without calling out in a severe manner things that would either unfairly or to an extreme single them out, yet at the same time create an accommodation of the proposal. The fact that there is a road in between reflects a very progressive kind of approach to it and personally I appreciate the thought that has gone into the proposal. I think that the people who feel barred at this point from participating fully in all aspects of Concord could feel very encouraged by the positive presentation that the Committee has made. I would like to support this proposal. I do not speak for the organized Jewish community except as a member of it.
Lloyd Simon, current President of Congregation Kerem Shalom - I want to express the appreciation of my congregation to Concord for considering the proposal. I'd like to talk about the dedication of Kerem Shalom that happened in 1989 and the outpouring of people who walked with us to our new home from the First Parish Church. Since that time our numbers have tripled. This is the next logical step.
Reverend David Barney, Trinity Episcopal Church - This year I'm president of the Clergy Lay Association of Concord, but I speak only on my own behalf. The Clergy Lay Association has discussed this proposal positively at our last meeting this week, but I can't speak for all of them. That is from a religious or faith perspective I see no drawback, I see every advantage to this plan. We can have some satisfaction and happiness that we live in a town where there are a number of different kinds of faiths and good people of no faith at all who live together profitably, and it seems to me it is just one good way of continuing the good deed and the kind of honor in a community that I really value. I thank you for all the creativity of this proposal. Joel Andrews, Main Street - I am a member of Kerem Shalom and I'm also very interested in history and an associate member of the Concord Historical Commission and I would like to make two points. One is that our other neighboring communities that have similar arrangements perhaps we could know exactly how Lexington and Bedford and there are several others as well and really things have gone very smoothly in talking to people in those communities. Can you tell me exactly how many communities there are with similar arrangements?
Judy Terry - Sudbury has that arrangement also and I'm not aware of any other immediate surrounding towns. Acton also has a Jewish section.
Joel Andrews - So there is precedent in some of our neighboring towns and there is also precedent in American History. I thought I would just read a very short section about a Jewish cemetery. The year, 1656. The city, New Amsterdam for those who are in the know, later became New York. So 350 years ago the first Jewish settlers to this country came to New Amsterdam in 1654 and for two years feverishly faced with a very hostile community and in the two years that they settled there, came before the city council with a similar type of request and were granted a city burial ground. So the two points may link communities, it goes well and there is a 350 year American precedent.
Juliet Casey, Bedford Street - What's going to happen to the purchase agreement? Back in 1989 you paid $100 deposit for the lot you picked out and within 60 days you had to purchase the lot. Now is that going to be changed for everyone. Now my family would love 20 plots. Can I go pick them out and not pay anything down? We have no objection to the Jewish being buried but why can't they come up and purchase the lots like everyone else. If someone wants five plots, you pay for them.
David Turocy - I would not plan on changing anything.
Juliet Casey - But you're going to set aside an area of 250 graves. Back in 1989 Norma Shapiro told us 3% of the population was Jewish. It hasn't grown too much, and she said then that in the past ten years, they had 5 burials. It's right in the committee meeting report. Well, it will take a lot of years to fill up all those graves. And we have to abide by their regulations if we want to be buried there.
Mitch Eckel - The gravesites are not identified for anyone in particular. What we are doing is accommodating a particular religious tradition. The point doesn't seem to follow that simply because we are setting aside and allowing a group to follow their religion means that we're discriminating against others. Anyone can buy their plot right now. If you want to buy 20 plots, I believe you can if you are a resident of the town.
Judy Terry - I think that we are missing a point here. The section has been marked off will be the first area that is used has some outlined areas that can be used for expansion, it doesn't have to be used for expansion. It will be determined as we see the need and the use as the years go by. We have it open for non-Jewish use. It's just an area that would not be used otherwise right away. It's not on the schedule to be used within the first ten years and we said, "Ah, this looks like it makes sense," but we're not saying it's reserved for anyone for any group.
Once we open this area. Once we develop this as grave sites we will know what we are doing and at that time I can answer the question. If you would like to buy a gravesite in this area at least for the first few years, the answer is yes, that your gravestone would need to fall within the restrictions that we're putting on the gravestones in that area. However, this little section if in ten years from now, there are only two graves here and we decide that there isn't the need that we thought and we deconsecrate it, then there will be no restrictions other than the restrictions of the entire cemetery. It will depend on the need that is shown and the number of graves that are purchased and used. So I can't look into the future. I have no way and I don't believe anybody here as a way of knowing 10 years, 15, 30 years from now, how much of this property is going to be used for Jewish graves?
Josephine Mazzeo, Old Bedford Road - I'm very confused at this point. Is it 100 plots, 250 plots? There are no direct answers. No facts.
Judy Terry - Let me directly answer that. The original section is approximately 100. This area is not going to be developed for anyone right away, but it's been identified as a very logical expansion for the Jewish cemetery and the total area, if it used and needed, would be about 250 graves, but it's just identified here.
Josephine Mazzeo - You mean all those plot patches are for the 250 graves. That's the whole area that is going to be set aside for their burials? I'm very confused, I'll grant you that.
Judy Terry - Let me try again. This section right here is the initial section that I believe will be consecrated if we go forward with this Jewish section of the cemetery. There are 100 grave sites in here. This is only a figment of our imagination right now. We say that this would equal approximately another 150 and would make a very logical expansion, we're not saying we are going to expand, we cannot look into a crystal ball in the future, we may expand there. It is simply logical to do so if the need is there.
Josephine Mazzeo - You mean both of those portions are set aside for the Jewish burial area if they need it in future years.
Judy Terry - And if we decide to do it.
Josephine Mazzeo - How many Jewish population do we have in Concord? I don't know, I'm just asking.
Judy Terry - We have approximately 5%. There are 16,000 people in Concord, 10% would be 1600, so it's perhaps 3000 individuals. Census is not required to ask a person what their religion is, we don't know for sure.
Josephine Mazzeo - In all fairness to all the other residents in Concord, do you think it's fair to set aside all that land for in case of expansion? I don't think that's fair.
Judy Terry - I'm sorry, I'll say it again. We are not setting it aside, we are identifying it for possible use.
Josephine Mazzeo - Well, that's the same thing in my book.
[Unidentified Speaker] - Is it true that the area within the circle on the other side of the road constitutes approximately 3000 perpetual gravesites?
David Turocy - What you see on this map is probably about 2500 or 2600 graves in all of this. We see a road here. There is another five acres for possible expansion so that will give us the 3700 graves. There's a possibility we could even with creativity get it up to 5000 so that will be another 1200 right here. So what you see highlighted here is about 2500.
[Same unidentified speaker] - And we're talking about setting aside about 200 on the other side. Thank you.
David Drachman, Barrett's Mill Road - Could you give us some idea of how long 3700 graves will be projected to last?
David Turocy - About 50 years.
David Drachman - So it seems unlikely we will run out of space.
Lynn Kass, Cambridge Turnpike - What I'm imagining is there is a temporary halt on
purchasing new grave sites and because of that this new section for various phases of
development and the section inside the oval and below the oval is being developed for the
traditional use in Concord and the section that is darkened is potentially to be developed for the Jewish community. Is that accurate?
Judy Terry - Everything about that is accurate except that we do sell graves in the old Sleepy Hollow if there is a death, if there is a need. There is a moratorium on buying pre-need.
Lynn Kass - This woman over here was saying for example, she would like to buy 20 gravesites. If she wanted to when the new section is open, could she buy 20 gravesites inside the oval?
Judy Terry - Yes.
Lynn Kass - So, it is not as though by setting aside that section we are depriving anybody of their right to buy in the new section.
Judy Terry - That is correct.
Lynn Kass - So, we may not be paying attention in my opinion to the other ones that are available. I wasn't quite aware that they would be available also.
Judy Terry - They will be available at the same. We are focusing our energies right now on developing and preparing and having available the gravesites in the new Sleepy Hollow North which we hope will be ready by next summer.
Phebe Ham, Musterfield Road - I try not to look at this just as a religious problem but also as administrative situation. I talked to one or two cemetery administrators who say that generally they have the same regulations for the entire cemetery. I went to Lexington and I thought they had a Jewish section. Here you say the requirements of the Jewish section are such and such with gravesites of 4' by 10'. In Lexington the gravesites for all graves is 3' by 10' in the Jewish section, so it seems it might be better to have the same gravesite size throughout the cemetery as some cemeteries do. They have the same gravesite size for all denominations, and as you said we have a sizeable minority, so I just wondered if you ever considered having the same size plots for everybody because there may be times in the future when other minorities might also want special plots or special sizes or bigger or something. It might be better to have the same size for everybody. Why is the requirement for this Jewish section so different from the Lexington cemetery?
Judy Terry - This is simply a proposal and whether we decide to make them a different size or not, we haven't voted on that yet and we certainly will take that under consideration in our discussion. We're not going to make a decision right now.
Mitch Eckel - Your point is well taken.
Judy Terry - We have that noted and we will make that a part of our discussion. Norma, did you want to speak to that?
Norma Shapiro, Allen Farm Lane - I just wanted to say in making the request, the gravesite size is one of the requirements of a Jewish burial ground. At the time the Lexington decision was made first in 1959 they actually were dividing their cemetery into a number of different sections. That decision excludes some Jews from being buried there. Some Jews will not be comfortable being buried in a gravesite that does not conform with those requirements, so they would have to be buried elsewhere. I think that when the Cemetery Committee decides whether to be inclusive enough to include those of us who would like to have the proposal accepted as is or whether or not there will be some people who will be excluded in this section.
Margaret Laible, Philip Farm Road - My question is about the map in a way. It looks like it is so far in from Bedford Road. It looks like the cemetery is very close to the road.
David Turocy - Well, it will be right up against Bedford Street eventually.
Margaret Laible - The road will be that far back?
Judy Terry - We haven't made the road yet. These are staked out. This is an engineering map and it should be accurate.
Margaret Laible - I think Sleepy Hollow is such a beautiful cemetery with all sorts of people buried there. I understand there are Jews buried there, there are Catholics buried there, why do we need to have a separate place at this time for another religion that can't be buried as the rest of us? We all live together.
Judy Terry - I can understand that that is your opinion.
David Orlinoff - I think it is important to separate wanting to be versus needing to be. You see
I think it's not really possible if you are a member of a significant majority of 95-97% to
understand that some parts of the other 3-5% feel excluded by the decisions that you can experience, and I don't mean to set this up as a you and they or you and me or we and they, that's
not my point. My point is that most religions that I know of have certain rules about certain
aspects of a lifestyle. It happens that Jewish tradition development over a period of time in
which Jews were not allowed to participate fully as citizens wherever they were. Whether that is
the cause or the effect it does happen to be a case that certain Jewish traditions which some parts
of Jewish community take part in and some don't, require or indicate that certain customs be
followed at the time of burial. Now it is true that there are Jewish people that are buried in
Sleepy Hollow. I've attended Jewish burials in Sleepy Hollow. However, it's also true that
members of the Jewish community who have died while being residents of Concord felt
excluded, their families felt they could not make the decision to bury them in Sleepy Hollow
because their tradition prohibited or Concord prohibited being buried in close proximity to a
gravestone that might bear a non-Jewish religious symbol such as a cross. It is true that we like
to think of ourselves as all one. We like to think that. On the other hand when you are one of
3%, it's a little hard to think of ourselves as all one when some people are saying that they have
an objection to setting aside 3% of 3700 graves that will take 50 years to fulfill and the only two
requirements that somebody to be buried there has to agree to is to be buried in a larger grave and
to agree to certain restrictions as to what the headstones would be. That seems to me pretty
democratic. You have 3600 grave sites where that is not a problem and you have 100 or 150
where you can make another decision. Is that an unreasonable burden for 97% of the population
to bear? I don't think so. And I do think that a substantial number of the Jewish people in
Concord will feel more comfortable making burial decisions for members of their family if they know that they don't have to choose between observing some important customs of their religion or being buried in unconsecrated ground and right now there is a substantial majority in town who are in that position. I think this proposal would allow those people who otherwise would not be able to be buried in Sleepy Hollow.
Joel Andrews - Just briefly, the mathematics without a slide rule or computer, if there is 17,000 people in the town of Concord 5% is approximately 850. The potential for the number of graves in the general section is 5000 and 250 max in the Jewish section, that's 5%. So 5% max is roughly 5% of the population. Sounds like a pretty good match to me.
Juliet Casey - We don't object to the Jewish people being buried there. But I and a lot of other people object to the fact that you're saving this property for them. If they want the gravesites, let them pay for them just as the rest of us do. It's only fair, isn't it?
Mitch Eckel - You're missing the point. There is going to be no cost to the town in setting this land aside. This land will be graded the same way everything else is.
Josephine Mazzeo - Now if someone lives here and their mother died that lived in Cambridge, will they be buried there too?
Judy Terry - Today, if my mother died, my mother lives in St. Louis, Missouri, if I wanted to purchase a gravesite and to have her buried here, she could be. You can bury your mother here. It's the way the cemetery is set up today and it very well may happen. It won't happen any more in the Jewish section than it would in the rest of the cemetery.
Josephine Mazzeo - I was under the impression that you had to be a Concord resident to be buried in Sleepy Hollow.
Judy Terry - You have to be a Concord resident to purchase the grave. Only people who live in town can purchase it but it can be used for people who live outside of town. You cannot sell it to them. You have to continue to own the grave but you can bury your relatives there.
Iris Shur, Strawberry Hill Road - Everyone will be paying for their grave up front. When I want a grave, I will pay for it.
Josephine Mazzeo - But there will be lots saved without any money.
Iris Shur - Well, that is a section that is consecrated, but the lot itself will not be reserved without someone paying, just the same as you would.
Josephine Mazzeo - Is that right? I didn't get that.
John Casey, Jr., Bedford Street - The road that comes in off Bedford Street seems very much at a 90 degree angle to Bedford Street. I know that there is access to public housing past 391 Bedford Street right now. I'm wondering first of all has there been any impact studies done with this new road coming in. Is there any wetland consideration of that road? Do we need that road when there is already access to the proposed cemetery off 391 Bedford Street?
Judy Terry - You know, this is something that we have discussed before and this isn't the purpose of the meeting this evening. I really don't want to discuss the designing of the cemetery unless the entire committee would like to do that. We're hear to discuss the Jewish section. David, can you briefly speak to that?
David Turocy - We have looked at the impact of that road from a traffic and safety point of view where there is a better line of sight and that exit was by far the best for the line of sight to get out on Bedford Street. Also the housing authority access I think is smaller than what we'll have as an entrance to that. So we have concerns with sight and also just the appearance. We want an attractive appearance to the cemetery rather than turning down somebody's driveway and turning off on a side road to get to the cemetery. We wanted an entrance where we would have immediate access to it. That's why the entrance is off Bedford Street.
Chris Whelan, Town Manager - I don't think the purpose of this meeting was to talk about the design itself. I didn't ask any of the staff to be prepared, but I did ask the police chief who assigned the safety officer to look at that section along with the town engineer and the town planner. The three of them did look at that site to confirm that the line of sight at that location will not interfere with the view. The location at the entrance to the housing authority would be less advantageous.
Norma Shapiro - I just want to thank the committee. I know that this has been a lot of hard work for the committee members. The issues as they were aired tonight were aired pretty much over the course of last year and there has been a lot of investigation put in by all the members of the committee and especially the staff. They've been very cooperative and helpful in the way that everybody went about trying to find out information and do what I think is in the best interests of what will turn out to be a majority of the citizens of town who want to be inclusive and want to have the town include all of us who live here in town. So thank you very much.
David Stephens - I don't think the questions have to do primarily with religions or with minorities for that matter. I think the issue before us really is whether or not the committee serves the whole town, whether it is the 3%-5% or 95%-97%, that is the charge of the committee as I understand it. So the issue really before the committee as I see it is whether or not the essential conveniences or costs of making this arrangement may be offset by equivalent consensus of the town. I'm not here to make a judgment on that tonight. But the issue is really whether or not the committee can explain to the selectmen, us and the rest of the town those offseting costs and benefits to the community are real, tangible and expendable. That is the only way the decision should be made in my opinion. It is not based on the question of minorities, histories, bigotry or inconvenience, it is a simple question of whether or not the committee is going to defend its position and its proposal on the basis of the town as a whole. I've heard some things tonight. The opening comments were very vague I'll have to say. You did not give very good credence, just we can do this, we can do that. I think you're going to have to do better than that when you appear before the selectmen and before the town. You're going to have to give them some concrete basis for your assumptions.
[Hearing was closed at 9:00 p.m.]
At the Cemetery Committee's meeting on April 17, 1997 with all members present a unanimous vote was cast to approve the proposal for a Jewish section at Sleepy Hollow North and that decision to be presented to the Board of Selectmen for confirmation.
On May 12, 1997, the Cemetery Committee did a presentation before the Board of Selectmen for confirmation of their decision since it was precedent setting.
Jewish Section Proposal (DRAFT)
1. A site has been identified in Sleepy Hollow North that is set off from the rest of the cemetery by a road and a natural path. This section could be developed for approximately 100 grave sites with room in the adjacent area for an additional 175 grave sites if there is need. Although estimating future need is an inexact science, the 100 grave site appears to be sufficient for at least 35 years and possibly much longer. If the need is less than expected, a portion of the section can be deconsecrated and used for non-Jewish burials with the appropriate physical barrier separating it from the consecrated site.
2. The site will be consecrated as required by Jewish law and tradition. Arrangements for this consecration will be the responsibility of the Jewish community.
3. Current standard grave size in Sleepy Hollow is 3.5 X 10 feet. In order to allow a 2 foot separation between caskets in the Jewish section, graves will be 4 X 10. Although actual prices have not been determined, the cost of a Jewish grave site will be proportionately higher to reflect the additional size of the grave.
4. According to cemetery staff, Sunday burials can be accommodated as needed. This option will be offered to all denominations. Overtime payments to staff will be charged to the users.
5. The staff has also indicated that in most cases the requirement for prompt burial can be accommodated. However, if the ground is frozen and a frost box is required to thaw the burial site, 36 hours of preparation time may be necessary.
6. The requirement that no human images or figures or non-Jewish religious symbols or expressions be permitted on gravestones or in the Jewish section will be dealt with by a deed restriction, perhaps cross referencing the cemetery regulations for detail.
7. The Town will administer the Jewish section by informing those who wish to buy plots of the existence of the section, of any additional costs and of the limitations on "graven images" and other non-Jewish religious expressions on gravestones or markers. Anyone who agrees to these arrangements may purchase a plot in the Jewish section.
8. Except as listed above, other rules of the Town Cemetery will apply.
REQUIREMENTS OF A JEWISH SECTION
A consecrated Jewish section must be separated from other sections by at least six feet and with a physical barrier such as shrubs, pathway, roadway or fence.
A Jewish cemetery should be dedicated with a service and special rites before any burial occurs.
The graves should be large enough so there is 2 feet between coffins.
Sunday burials may be necessary because there is no embalming and Jewish law requires prompt burial after death (usually within 24 hours). No Jewish burials are permitted on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) or on Jewish holidays
No human images or figures are permitted on gravestones or in the section. Non-Jewish religious symbols or religious expressions would likewise not be permitted.
No disinterments from Jewish graves would be permitted without rabbinical or judicial approval.
April 1, 1997