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Cemetery

Among the many services our Congregation offers our members and the wider Jewish community is our cemetery.  This site, Section J5 of Park Lawn Cemetery in Bennington, is probably the loveliest, most peaceful Jewish cemetery in the U.S.,  with stunning views overlooking the Pownal Valley to the south of town.

 

History

In 1953 members of our Congregation arranged with Park Lawn Cemetery to take charge of the sale of plots in Section J5 to assure our members burial amongst co-religionists. Section J5 is separated from the rest of Park Lawn by a perimeter hedge.  Originally, a separate Cemetery Board of Trustees was established, but  that was folded into a Committee of the Beth El Board of Trustees during the 1990s. The Cemetery Endowment Fund set up in 1953 for Perpetual Care is maintained as a separate Cemetery Endowment Fund to be used only for cemetery purposes within the larger Beth El budget.  

 

In 2013 -14, thanks to donations from current and past congregation members and families. a beautiful stone entrance walkway and “meditation garden,” spiritual space, was added to enhance the  peace and beauty of the cemetery for families and loved ones.  

 

Policies

The policies of the cemetery have evolved as our Congregation has evolved.  In 1953  our Congregation was Orthodox, as presumably were most of the families.  During the tenure of Rabbi Howard Cohen, when our Congregation became Reconstructionist, questions arose about Jewish identity and who could or should be buried in our cemetery.

 

The Board of Trustees followed Rabbi Cohen's recommendation to both honor the presumed expectations of the original Orthodox families and also to be open and welcoming to new definitions of Jewishness and Congregation membership. This resulted in separating the cemetery into Halachic and Non-Halachic sections.  There's no defined wall or fence or boundary between these sections; they are on the right and left sides of the entrance.   

 

Our current practice is to offer plots in the Halachic Section to individuals who self-identify as Jewish by maternal descent and who prefer burial in that section, which is where the oldest presumably more Orthodox, burials had taken place. Plots in the Non-Halachic Section are offered to individuals who prefer that location or who self-identify as Jewish by paternal descent, by informal identity or who are not Jewish.

 

Purchasing and Pricing 

If you are interested in buying a plot, whether you’re a Congregation Member or a Non-Member, please contact our office.  We are fortunate to have many gravesites available, so we sell plots to Non-Members as well as Members. The office will put you in touch with a member of the Cemetery Committee who will assist with and arrange the purchase.  

 

A Committee member will arrange to meet you at the cemetery if that’s convenient,  or assist you by phone to help you choose your plot(s) and provide current pricing.  We never demand "proofs" or place families into the  Halachic or  Non-Halachic Section.  We are sensitive to self-definitions and want to recognize the fluid definitions of Jewishness, inter-faith marriages and partnerships.  We want all Jewish-identified families  and their family members to feel welcome to purchase.

 

Our Congregation does not own Section J5 of Park Lawn outright; rather we control sales and pay Park Lawn Cemetery for each plot out of the price we charge, so our prices change annually. Our price is based on what Park Lawn charges us each year plus an additional fee we keep in our Cemetery Endowment Fund to pay for perpetual care. Park Lawn's price also includes their perpetual care responsibilities.  Park Lawn's price to us is adjusted annually, so our prices reflect those increases.  

The Beth El Board policy is that we charge Members less than Non-Members, as a benefit of membership in the Congregation. All prices are subject to change, so please contact the Beth El office to be put in touch with a member of the Cemetery Committee for most current prices.

Purchasers of single plots are charged an additional $25 for the legal cost to prepare  the deed.  For others, this fee is included.  All purchasers also are charged $10.00 for the cost of registering the deed with the Town of Bennington as proof of  plot  and land ownership. There may also be additional Park Lawn cemetery fees, which your funeral home will inform you about, depending on your arrangements.

 

We  have a policy of not buying back plots after purchase. Owners may assign ownership or usage to other family members.  If you do so, it is your responsibility to inform Park Lawn Cemetery and a member of our committee for our records.  All  other funeral arrangments must be made separately by the family with funeral homes and  Rabbi.

 

 

                                               

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                                                                            Beth El Community Profile

                                                                             Alice and Alan Greenspan

                                                                      (aka Al and Al by family members)

                                                                                                                                               As told to Susan Armstrong

 

Alice and Alan both grew up in Perth Amboy, NJ, around the corner from one another. Al is four years her senior. When they were young, the Depression was in full force, but both considered themselves privileged because they had comfortable lifestyles, despite all the want and need throughout the country. Their families belonged to the same Conservative temple – Beth Mordechai. Alice’s father was Treasurer of the board, “forever.” Al was bar mitzvahed and tutored in Hebrew by Cantor Efron, a well known composer of liturgical music. Because bat mitzvahs were rare at that time, Alice was confirmed.

Alice had a beautiful sister, seven years her senior, named Jacquie. Alan was quick to comment that she looked like Ava Gardner. On Friday nights she would sit on the front porch and the boys would line up to talk to her. Mischievous Alice sat up in a second floor window throwing notes out to the boys. Alice said, “I grew up in the shadow of my beautiful sister.” 

When asked if anything had ever happened in their lives that changed everything, Alice immediately described a giant explosion that occurred on two barges in the Raritan River, just two blocks from her family’s home. She was talking on the phone on the second floor, wearing only a slip, when suddenly the force of the explosion blew out all the windows in the entire house, including the room where she was standing. She was covered in blood from the shattered glass and ran downstairs to see if everyone was okay. Her mother and father had both escaped injury. She threw on her new spring coat and they all ran outside. Being without shoes, she ended up with bleeding feet as well. The city was put under martial law when it was discovered that the barges that had collided were smuggling arms to Pakistan. First aid stations were set up and Alice was able to receive the necessary care. Her brand new spring coat was ruined by the blood, but her mother dyed it blue and solved the problem.

Congregation Beth El  107 Adams Street  Bennington  VT  05201

 

Tel: 802-442-9645     Email: cbevtoffice@gmail.com

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Both Alan and Alice attended Jewish summer camps, Alice in Monterey, MA and Al at Camp Kiowa in Honesdale, PA. They each had dogs in their families and remain dog lovers to this day. They attended local Perth Amboy schools until Al was sent away to a private school, as his mother wanted to shield him from his father’s illness. He attended the George School in Newtown, PA, founded by Quakers. Two of his classmates were Stephen Sondheim and Blythe Danner. Al tells the story that Oscar Hammerstein’s son, Jimmy, was also a student there. Stephen had written some music for a class play, and Oscar Hammerstein himself just happened to be in the audience. And so began Sondheim’s brilliant musical career. The Greenspans attended Sondheim’s play, "Applause," on Broadway years later, and Stephen was in the audience. Al went over to say hello and was greeted by name immediately. It was impressive to be remembered after all those years.

 

In his teen years, Alan sported a pompadour hair style a la Elvis. Walking by Alice’s house one day, he saw her outside. Al flipped her a nickel and said, “Call me when you’re 16.” What a move! He went off to Washington University, then on to graduate school at Northwestern, where he earned a degree in Macroeconomics. Next Al served in the 101st Airborne Division and fought in North Korea. After putting up with freezing conditions in that country, he was sent to Oklahoma City, where he roasted. There Al taught combat intelligence – how to interrogate prisoners. By this time, both he and Alice had married other people and each had three girls of their own.

 

Al had a sterling career on Wall Street with Rothchild & Co., Oppenheimer & Co. and was a Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley. For years he oversaw the NYC Pension Fund, where he was tasked with foreseeing the economic future. Alice owned a successful interior design company, all the while raising her girls. In fact, she has an assignment right now to design the interior of a home in Burlington. Her creativity never stops.

 

They had not seen each other for twenty one years, but their parents had their fingers crossed that the two would re-connect, because each was getting a divorce. As soon as they saw each another, Al said, “We know each other well. Let’s get married.” But Alice gave him a hard time. She resisted until they finally wed eleven months later. Together they raised their daughters and shared their common interest in mountain climbing. They even traveled to New Zealand, where they scaled some of mountains in the Southern Alps and hiked the Greenstone Track out of Queensland.

 

It has now been forty seven years that Alice and Alan have been married. Their families have melded together – all six girls. They have thirteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren. They have remained happily together for over half of their lives.

 

They moved permanently to Wilmington, VT in 2003, after having spent years coming up to to Mt. Snow from New Jersey with their family to ski. In 1999 they began their association with Congregation Beth El. Al volunteered to manage the CBE investment funds over ten years ago and has done a stellar job. Alice is a trustee on the Board of Directors. We are indeed fortunate that the Greenspans continue to enrich our congregation.

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