New Jewish section consecrated at Marana cemetery

A Jewish section has been established at Marana Mortuary and Cemetery, with Rabbi Ephraim Zimmerman of Chabad of Oro Valley overseeing religious aspects of the section.

“Until now Jewish burial was available in Tucson in two cemeteries, Evergreen and East Lawn. [The Marana management] figured I was the obvious choice, being the only rabbi that serves the Jewish community of Northwest Tucson exclusively,” says Zimmerman, who adds that he is not involved in financial or administrative operations at the cemetery.

“We’re a new cemetery, a growing cemetery, and we thought it would be necessary to have something” for the Jewish community, says Doug Joseph, director of operations at Marana Mortuary and Cemetery, which opened in September 2011. It is located off I-10 on West Barnett Road.

The Jewish section will comprise about 300 graves, says Joseph, with 50 at a time being developed. Adjacent to the Jewish section is a section for “the spouses that are not Jewish and whoever would like to be buried there,” says Joseph, who explains that people seeking to buy a plot in the Jewish section will be referred to Zimmerman first, to affirm they are Jewish according to Jewish law.

Zimmerman says he worked with the cemetery to arrange details about tahara (ritual preparation for burial) and using pine coffins. The Marana Mortuary and Cemetery offers a complete Jewish burial package, as do Evergreen Mortuary and Cemetery and East Lawn Palms Mortuary and Cemetery.

The rabbi notes that he continues to do tahara at Evergreen Cemetery, where he has been a member of the chevra kadisha or holy society, the group that performs tahara, since coming to the Tucson area in 2012.

All local rabbis may officiate at funerals at the Marana cemetery, says Zimmerman. The Jewish section was dedicated on Dec. 22, the 10th of Tevet on the Jewish calendar. The dedication was held on that day because participants must fast and the 10th of Tevet is already a fast day, Zimmerman explains.

“Consecrating or inaugurating a Jewish cemetery is a very old ritual, though it is a rather unknown procedure due to its very rare appearance in actual practice,” says Zimmerman. A minyan is gathered; they recite special prayers while circling the section seven times. Using tzedakah boxes, they give charity at the conclusion of the service. Zimmerman explains that charity is given in seven categories, including clothing the poor, feeding the poor and Jewish education.

Zimmerman welcomes this new resource for Northwest Tucson.

“As the Jewish community continues to grow here in Northwest Tucson, I felt it was important that we establish our own Jewish cemetery locally. Burial (versus cremation) has been the Jewish choice throughout the ages and I am honored to be a part of bringing of this option to those interested.”