Laurel Hill Cemetery, a national historic landmark, inadvertently scheduled its first ever Jewish Heritage Month program on Shavuot.
A few dozen people have signed up for the May 15 walking tour that will highlight Jewish Philadelphians buried at the cemetery, and there are no plans to cancel or reschedule.
Gwen Kaminski, program director at Laurel Hill, said she usually consults a Jewish calendar before planning programs, but this one got by her. She noted that the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery board president, Carol R. Yaster, who is Jewish, didn’t tell her about the holiday.
“We realized it after the fact,” said Kaminski, who is not Jewish. “It was a mistake and an oversight.”
Shavuot, though not the most widely celebrated holiday by non-Orthodox Jews, is a major date on the Jewish calendar, marking the anniversary of the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Jewish law prohibits visiting cemeteries on Shabbat or holidays, including Shavuot.
Kaminski noted that the cemetery will be sure not to schedule the tour on a Jewish holiday the next time they run the program. She also said it is possible to get a private tour.
Laurel Hill was founded in 1836 on the East side of the Schuylkill River, and overlooks what is now Kelly Drive. Among the tombs being highlighted on the tour is that of John Rosenthal, who died in 2008 and was considered a premier developer of affordable housing units.
West Laurel Hill Cemetery, a sister cemetery to Laurel Hill located in Bala Cynwyd, two years ago opened a Jewish section and has been advertising itself as an option for Jewish burial.
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