Jewish Sightseeing HomePage Jewish Sightseeing
  1998-03-27 Book Burial

San Diego region

San Diego

Home of Peace



A burial for the books

San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, March 27, 1998


By Donald H. Harrison

San Diego, CA (special) -- Congregation Beth Israel conducted the kind of funeral last week at which both the buriers and the buried had something good to say. 
Taken under with prayers by the congregation were worn-out siddurim (prayer books), Torah commentaries and other books and objects containing the four letter Hebrew name of God. Because the books contain the Holy Name, Jewish tradition requires them to be buried exactly as a person would be.

"We have kept these shemot --a word meaning names-- because they contain the name of God--in a special place in the temple called a genizah," Rabbi Jonathan Stein explained to students from Beth Israel Day School who attended the ceremony at Home of Peace Cemetery.

"Now because we have accumulated so much, we are going to have this service to bury them and honor them," he added.

After handing 12 cartons of books down to maintenance man Tony 

Rabbi Jonathan Stein lowers
boxes of books for burial at
Home of Peace Cemetery 
Noriega for placement in the grave, the Reform rabbi led the students in an English reading which said, in part: "We bury Bibles and prayerbooks, tallitot (prayer shawls)  and kippot (head coverings), mezzuzot (doorpost prayers) and tefillin (phylacteries), each of which we bury with honor and reverence

"We are grateful for the precious words which these books contain and for the opportunities we had to use these ritual objects," the reading continued. "Each shemot deserves kavod, our respect and honor."

Students participated in covering the boxes of books and objects with dirt, but they did not completely fill the grave which is located under a pepper tree.  A few days later, 12 more boxes of books and objects were buried at another ceremony attended by students from Beth Israel's supplemental religious school.

Following the burial ceremony, Ralph Levy and Joan Jacobs, members of the congregation's cemetery and mausoleum association, showed the students around the cemetery, pausing in front of the gravestones of such San Diego pioneers as Louis Rose, who became the first Jew to settle in San Diego in 1850.

Students were asked to look for the person who was oldest and the person who was youngest at the time of their respective deaths, and to copy down interesting epitaphs.