Sharon Memorial Park has become an integral part of the fabric of the Jewish community of Greater Boston since it was founded in 1948 – the same year as the State of Israel. Among the premier Jewish cemeteries in the U.S, Sharon Memorial Park is known nationally as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the Northeast.
It is not a coincidence that Sharon Memorial Park was founded the same year as the modern State of Israel. It was 1948 and the post-World War II Boston Jewish community was coming into its own. The war had been over for three years. The GIs had settled in good jobs or started their own businesses. Out of the ashes of Nazi Europe was rising a new homeland in Israel, and Jews around the world felt secure, enfranchised and empowered.
One way for the Jewish community to show that it was a part of modern America was to create a modern, garden-style park with uniform bronze markers lying flat on landscaped plots as an alternative to traditional cemeteries with stone monuments. Sharon Memorial Park, which is celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008, is modeled after Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles but follows strict Jewish burial traditions.
In 1948, a 317-acre parcel in the towns of Sharon and Canton designated as far back as 1898 for cemetery use came on the market. A dozen business and community leaders felt the time was right for a large, modern cemetery. They seized the opportunity and created a place that could be appreciated by the living – Sharon Memorial Park.
Although the new cemetery was in rural Sharon, newspaper ads in 1949 noted that it was only nine miles from Mattapan Square which was an up and coming center of Jewish life. They hoped to attract interest from people as far away as Providence, just 30 minutes away on Route 1. Click here to view a video from 1948 showing the construction of the park: Sharon Memorial Park construction
For prospective lot buyers without cars or someone to drive them, Sharon Memorial Park would send a courtesy car to bring them for a tour and a meeting with a counselor. The location and setting were so attractive that twenty-eight sponsoring Boston area synagogues reserved sections at Sharon over the years.
A chief architect and visionary of Sharon Memorial Park was Eric Marmorek of Newton who served as the park’s first executive Vice President from 1949-1967. He traveled extensively to research other parks around the world. Marmorek instituted the most innovative ideas that he gleaned from other cemeteries, while always maintaining the highest standards.
In addition to being among the first modern Jewish cemeteries, Sharon Memorial Park has been a leader in it’s field in the following areas:
- Sharon pioneered pre-need planning which is an industry standard today.
- It was the first cemetery in the area to offer family burial “estates” with benches for visitors, and it was among the first to feature a visitor friendly administration building with public restrooms.
- Sharon was a leader in guaranteeing to set aside a portion of each purchase price in an irrevocable trust earmarked for the perpetual care of the grounds.
- It was the first to name sections of the park after historic and Biblical locations in Israel. Such as Galilee, Ein Gedi, Mount of Olives and Jerusalem. Sharon includes a “Shomrei Shabbat” section for Orthodox Jews, and was one of the first cemeteries–45 years ago–to establish its Beersheba section for interfaith families.
Sharon Memorial Park is so full of nature and life that it is not unusual to see families visiting with children. Bird watchers and tree enthusiasts are also frequent visitors and it is not unusual to see deer foraging in the lush hills of the park.
Despite its popularity over the years, Sharon is a long way from being at capacity. In fact, it expects to serve the public for generations to come.