If you’re ever in Romania, do me a favor: visit the Merry Cemetery. Yes, that’s really it’s name, and its uniqueness will make you smile.
A lot of thought went into Merry Cemetery. According to the web site, “Instead of the usual boring stone grave markers and marble mausoleums that populate just about every other graveyard in the world, each plot is adorned with a colorfully-painted wooden cross.” For epitaphs, the markers “offer up a glimpse into the lives of the dead through fun—and sometimes funny—poems.” The entire cemetery was conceived as “a unique way of immortalizing [this] community in a way that celebrated life instead of mourning death.”
While death is not funny, there’s a lot to be said for a cemetery as a place to memorialize life. Especially is this true for followers of Yeshua.
Bob Mendelsohn, director of Jews for Jesus in Australia, wrote on his blog:
“Where will you be buried? Where will I be buried? I’d like to be buried in a Jewish place… . I urge the leaders of the messianic world to join together in each continent, and find a suitable venue for the creation of a Jewish believer burial location. We need our own cemeteries. What do you think?”1
It so happens that some have already joined to do just as Bob suggested. The Messianic Jewish community has actually broached the subject before, and the proposals have now come to fruition. There is at least one Messianic Jewish cemetery that exists, thanks to the Messianic Jewish Burial Society of Chicago (MJBSC).2
The MJBSC still needs to officially name the cemetery and mark off the Messianic Jewish section. The proposed name is Ha She’rit Ha Chaya, “The Living Remnant,” based on the thought of Romans 11:5. Amer Olson, an accomplished artist serving with Jews for Jesus in New York, has sketched a design for the marker. The MJBSC hopes to designate this section of the cemetery by August of 2013.
Diverse Messianic congregations and ministries came together to realize this dream. If you know of other Messianic burial societies or cemeteries, please let us know. If you’ve seen or even created a design you like for a Messianic Jewish headstone, we’d love to see it and share it if you want to send us a link.
Like the Merry Cemetery, we can memorialize life through intentional creativity as we work together. It may be through eye-opening visuals (as in Romania), or by quieter yet thought-provoking memorials. In these ways, we can show that though it is painful to be separated from loved ones in death, we Jews who believe in Jesus look forward to everlasting life with a sense of wonder, knowing that it will be beautiful beyond imagination.
Havurah thanks Pastor Dan Strull of Olive Tree Congregation (Prospect Heights, Illinois) for his help with this article. Dan serves as part of the leadership team of the Harvest Committee of the Greater Chicago area, a Messianic cooperative network.