Every so often, we are asked to document occasions that happen so rarely, they become a true piece of history for a particular area or community. Yesterday morning, Blake photographed one of such occasions – described during the speeches as “once in a generation”, the opening of a new Jewish cemetery in London is a very rare and auspicious occasion.
The cemetery was officially opened by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Mr. Stephen Pack, the President of the United Synagogue, and consecrated by Dayan Menachem Gelley, Head of the London Beth Din. This was a fascinating morning, as certain rituals were carried out to sanctify this area and make it a holy place in which the deceased will rest. Firstly, a group of Rabbis led by the Chief Rabbi walked around the perimeter of the grounds reciting Tehilim (Psalms). Then after a short ceremony in one of the brand new prayer halls with beautiful vocal accompaniment by Chazan Jonny Turgel, a holy Torah scroll was buried in the ground. So the first burial to take place in the cemetery was not a person, but a holy hand-written scroll.
Interestingly, this was not a sombre occasion but a happy one in many ways, as the London Jewish community has planned and created a location in which the deceased can be buried with dignity. Indeed, in his address Chief Rabbi Mirvis spoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon saying of the Jewish people “they keep their cemeteries like we keep our palaces” whilst reaffirming that those leaving the physical world are so important in our collective memory.
Here are some of our favourite images from a fascinating morning, a landmark occasion…