JCAM’S History Then to Now
Dating back to the mid-1800s through the 1940s lived succeeding generations who began to grow and prosper in America from the great wave of Jewish immigration their ancestors endured. Many of these newly settled Jewish Americans began to set their roots in Boston and surrounding towns. They built synagogues, formed fraternal organizations and Jewish social clubs. One of the first steps taken by these institutions was to establish and provide their members a Jewish burial site.
Over time, many of the cultural and social functions these groups provided their members began to diminish in importance. Shifting populations seeking to move from crowded cities in and around Boston to the suburbs caused many once-thriving congregations to close or move to new locations. While many of these may no longer be active today, the existence of Massachusetts’ Jewish cemeteries is an ever-present reminder of these historic organizations.
During the 1980s growing concern was on the horizon for abandoned or neglected Jewish cemeteries. Due to lack of successive cemetery management, founding burial societies were no longer able to care for their properties. This lack of care sparked the beginning of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts (JCAM), a nonprofit that began by taking over 17 Jewish cemeteries, five of which were abandoned.
Today there are 222 Jewish cemeteries in Massachusetts. More than half of those properties are under the care of JCAM, including the first (Temple Ohabei Shalom Cemetery in East Boston, est. 1844) and the newest (Beit Olam East Cemetery in Wayland, est. 2010).
Over the years, increasing numbers of Jewish cemetery organizations have faced hardships and the inability to care for their properties. Many have turned to JCAM for assistance because of the assurance given, that these cemeteries will be perpetually managed and cared for.
As the organization has continued for over 36+ years, JCAM strives to continue to be a vital resource for the Jewish community worldwide.
JCAM TODAY- Restoring the Past, Building for the Future
Since 1984 a large portion of our operating budget has been allocated to cemetery restoration. It has been the foundation for the success of JCAM, as well as a building block for the organization. The fundamental cornerstone of our organization is to ensure the Jewish community that their cemeteries are remembered, cared for and never forgotten. The success of the organization is continuously reinforced when families express to us their appreciation and gratitude for our work.
Restoration projects we have completed over the years have included demolishing run down and unused chapels to be able to create additional graves as well as prayer gardens. Dangerous and uprooted concrete walkways have been replaced with new grass. We have fixed broken fences and gates that deteriorated over the years and included irrigation systems on our properties. As acts of anti-Semitism rises, the need for better security systems on our cemeteries is becoming more essential to ensure the safety of our properties from perpetrators and hate crimes.
While we have been hard at work with physical restoration and preservation, we assist the community as they seek to find loved ones on our cemeteries. 21st century technology and the utilization of updated records, mapping systems and databases allow us to support those in their quests to learn more of their family’s ancestral history.
The core of JCAM stands on Chevrat K’vod Hamet, the guardians of our dead. As members of the Jewish community, it is our mission to give back to those who can no longer care for themselves. When needed, we provide graves for the less fortunate, many free of charge. We believe that every person deserves the same respect before, during and after life despite financial hardships. We also offer the community cemetery educational programming and workshops that enlighten the community on the importance of our work.
All our history and current efforts are building for the future generations of JCAM, ensuring the continuous peace of mind that those resting on our cemeteries will be cared for eternally. While we continue to care for hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and counting, and create more programming opportunities for the community, we cannot do it alone!
We ask the community to build with us! Get involved. Learn about us and support our efforts as more independent cemetery associations join the JCAM family.
Your support of our efforts is crucial to our ongoing success. All donations to the JCAM Charitable Foundation are tax deductible.
Thank you. (Donate Now!)