Gan HaDorot– Garden of the Generations
The garden we see from the sanctuary window was planted in 1996. The seed from which it grew came from a member who wanted a living memorial for her mother who had recently passed away. She looked out the window at Beth El and envisioned a beautiful garden there – a garden not solely to remember loved ones, but a place for celebration, contemplation, and prayer. Together with another member of equal vision and energy, they found a committee, hired a skilled landscape architect, and organized the fundraising to make it a reality. And so after a year of planning, the unfinished land adjoining the sanctuary was transformed into a place that made our spiritual home more welcoming and more beautiful.
The vision realized was/is a series of three gardens with hardy trees and shrubs and beds of flowers. In true Beth El fashion, the committee sought a Jewish connection for this project and accordingly researched references to plantings in the Tanach. Indeed, some of the plantings mentioned were incorporated into the garden: a burning bush, fruit trees, a cedar of Lebanon, to name a few. In addition, to commemorate the six million lost in the Holocaust, six tulips were planted in the garden at the dedication ceremony.
Beyond the visual beauty, thought was also given to the many ways that congregants might use the garden. So a stone wall was set in a fieldstone patio to provide a place for sitting, meditating, or praying. Outside lights were installed to allow the congregation to glimpse the beauty beyond the windows during evening services.
The third space forms the memorial garden. Concealed by trees and boulders, it is a place set aside to honor the memory of our loved ones. Their names are listed in the Memorial Book that is kept in the garden year round and updated frequently. Congregants can place as many names into the book as they wish – family, extended family, friends – without cost. The Book sits on a shelf inside a stand hewn from New England stone. Inside its bluestone top is set a block of Jerusalem marble brought from Israel and donated to the congregation by a member’s friend who made aliyah a number of years ago. The following words were engraved in the marble: Zachor tzadik livracha, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” The model for this stand, though the materials are different, holds the Book of Names at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington,D.C.
At the time of the first plantings, a Beth El donation fund, the Garden Fund, was established so that congregants who so desired could send a donation “in memory,”“in honor,” “in celebration,” or “for the recovery from illness” of a loved one, a friend, a fellow congregant. Such a gesture not only acknowledges a life passage or a milestone event but, in addition, helps sustain our garden.
Our garden has been and continues to be a place of meditation, celebration, prayer, learning, remembrance, and consolation. Its name, given after considerable thought about the garden’s many uses, is GanHaDorot, the Garden of the Generations. With nurturing and care by the congregation, it will continue to serve us well.
The Gan HaDorot and building landscaping is tended to by a group of volunteer gardeners whose hearts & hands are working throughout the year to create a space of beauty and tranquility for the community. The group’s work is supported through donations to the Garden Fund and gifts of plant material from the membership. If you would like to volunteer contact Gena at email@example.com