In July, those who plan to rest in peace at Bala’s West Laurel Hill Cemetery – as much of Philadelphia’s who’s who do – received a “Dear Lot Holder” letter: The 141-year-old -Quaker-founded, nondenominational cemetery would be adding a section “to meet the burial … needs of the Jewish faith.”
“We had a number of neighbors who wanted to be in our cemetery,” says Deborah Cassidy, director of sales, marketing and family services, “but because of their faith, they felt they couldn’t.” And so by next month, more than 1,500 spaces will be earmarked for Jewish burials – many in a section reserved for Orthodox congregants, whose burial traditions previously sent them to Orthodox cemeteries in Upper Darby and Jenkintown rather than the Main Line’s most prestigious resting place.
But isn’t what West Laurel bills as inclusion also the, er, death of the Quaker-decreed lack of religious affiliation, which may have been a selling point for those already buried there? Cassidy isn’t worried: “I think people will embrace it.” And as for selling points, West Laurel – already on funerary’s cutting edge with “green” burial -offerings – is all good: 73 of the new lots have been prepurchased. Real estate like that doesn’t stick around for eternity.