A “Jewish cemetery” is simply one in which Jews are buried. I suspect the question is perhaps trying to understand a common misconception that due to certain specific transgressions, one may not be buried in a “Jewish cemetery.” There is in fact no such prohibition. There is, however, a notion in Jewish law of burying one near the people that would be most honorable to that person. We bury spouses together. Many synagogues in America have sections of a cemetery so the members of a community can be buried together.
Along those lines, the Shulkhan Arukh does record a law that one may not bury wicked people with righteous people (Yoreh Deah 367). Furthermore, even a moderately wicked person should not be buried with a fully wicked person. However, one who has repented may be buried with someone who is completely righteous.
That halacha implies that how one lives in life and how s/he is remembered will also reflect on those who are buried near them. As such, it is appropriate for communities, and burial societies to set standards for burial, so that those who are buried among the members of a community honor the others who have passed away by their proximity. [This isn’t always possible once a grave has already been purchased.]
In conclusion, Rabbis felt that in death, as in life, we are often looked at by the company we keep.
The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. A Jewish cemetery is a piece of land acquired by the Jewish community which is designated for the burial of Jews. That’s it. It can be its own cemetery, or there can be a Jewish section of a larger cemetery. The only rule is that it is supposed to be set off by some kind of clear boundary from other parts of the cemetery. There is no particular ceremony or ritual that is needed to give it this status. The idea is that we want to treat the ground where our dead are buried as sacred, so we designate a specific contained area for them.
Once it is designated as a Jewish cemetery, certain rules apply. Most obviously, it is supposed to be used only to bury Jews and to have grave markers that use only Jewish symbols. This can get complicated – it is not uncommon for debates about who qualifies as a Jew to spill over into struggles over burial in a Jewish cemetery. There are also certain types of people who were traditionally excluded from burial in a Jewish cemetery, including those who commit suicide. However, for the most part rabbis today find ways to work around these exclusions out of respect both for the dead and for their families.
There is some unclarity about this, so after I looked around and spoke to some colleagues, and did a it of research, I went to my respected teacher who has written extensively in the area of death, dying, funerals, and related matters. Rabbi Stuart Kelman is the Dean of the Gamliel Institute http://www.gamliel.org/, and one of the instructors for Kavod v"Nichum http://www.jewish-funerals.org/, What he responded in asnwer to this question was:
"As far as I know, a cemetery is a piece of land owned in perpetuity by the Jewish community. It is consecrated by a ceremony. When cemeteries are created, the owners set specific rules as to who may or may not be buried there. There are those who argue that every grave, when purchased by an individual, is in fact, 'kever shelo' - and may be considered a 'cemetery'".
What makes a cemetery (or cemetery plot) Jewish, is that it is set apart with a visible boundary of some sort, consecrated by a ceremony, and is in fact used for burial of a Jew or Jews,
That means there are many variations on what may constitute a Jewish cemetery from a single grave, to a family plot, to a specific community group plot, to an open communal cemetery. The specific rules and restrictions are set and administered by the group that owns, operates, or maintains that cemetery.
Often there are corporate or communal norms or restrictions on what is permissible: what sort of monuments, markers, gravestones, headstones, footstones, vaults, crypts,or on what may be displayed or included on such monuments, what decorations or plantings may be placed, use of liners or vaults, types of caskets, burial of cremains, what sort of ceremonies are allowed, who may be buried in which sections, etc.
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