Clover Hill Park Cemetery gets ready to open the Berman Shiva Center on the grounds of the cemetery.
Photos By Rudy Thomas
Shortly after Clover Hill Park Cemetery Executive Director Kim Raznik and Clover Hill Board Chairman Gregg Orley came to their posts in the summer of 2018, they shared a discussion about consistent changes in the way shiva was being observed by families in Metro Detroit.
Specifically, shivas were getting shorter, one or two days, and many were being held at impersonal places.
“Long ago, a number of people moved out of state,” Orley said. “As their parents died, they’d come back home but not have a place to hold shiva, so they would go to a restaurant, for example. That struck us as a sad way to celebrate a life.”
Orley and Raznik wanted to create a place at Clover Hill for families to celebrate the lives of their loved ones, and they realized the Mandell L. Berman Administration Building would be ideal. Renovations at the building, now called the Berman Shiva Center, are nearly complete, and families will be able to hold shivas and gatherings there beginning in December.
“We’ve removed walls and created a comfortable space for families to gather with friends and loved ones after an unveiling or after an interment for shiva and services. Families will be able to bring in a kosher meal as friends come to comfort one another,” Raznik said.
“Geographically, we are centrally located so the Berman Shiva Center is ideal for out-of-towners who have few local connections or for those who want to gather with friends and family in a convenient and meaningful space.”
According to Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, which owns the cemetery, “Clover Hill Park Cemetery seeks to fulfill the Jewish values of kavod hamet (honoring the deceased) and nichum aveilim (comforting mourners) within the bounds of Jewish law.
“This new resource will allow such families a warm, intimate setting by which their friends and extended family can offer them comfort,” he added.
While the Mandell Berman Administration Building was being renovated, Clover Hill decided to renovate its nearly 100-year-old cherished Davidson/Hermelin Chapel as well, putting in new bathrooms, new carpeting, a new rabbi’s study, which will provide a private room for families to meet with the rabbi, as well as a new live-streaming video service.
The renovations were completed at the end of the summer and “requests to have services and eulogies in the chapel have already increased,” Orley said.
The Berman Shiva Center can accommodate 50-60 people, Raznik said. The center holds a reception area open to families that has the feel of a living room. There is a kosher kitchen area, and kosher food can easily be brought in, she added. The building also has a conference room/eating area. Windows have been added to the back of the building to provide a peaceful view of Clover Hill’s historic grounds.
The Berman Shiva Center is open to anyone in the community, even those who don’t have a burial at Clover Hill Park. Call (248) 723-8884 to find out about fees.
Clover Hill recently hired a program coordinator to manage the Berman Shiva Center. “We are overwhelmed with the response we’ve been getting from the community,” Orley said. “People think it’s a great idea. We are coordinating many of the resources you will need during this time.”
Clover Hill is planning an open house event soon for rabbis and funeral directors to tour the Berman Shiva Center. “Many have already been here,” Orley said. “But we look forward to showing everybody what we created.”
Additional plans can serve the community in the near future. According to Orley, the newly renovated Davidson/Hermelin Chapel will be able to hold cultural events, such as author talks and films on topics of interest to the community, such as death, mental illness or ethical wills, for example.
Also, work is under way to upgrade the cemetery’s mapping system. According to Raznik, the entire cemetery is being mapped and photographed and, once integrated, visitors will be able to search for a loved one and get directions to specific gravesites through Google Maps. Once complete, online burial searches will be available on your phone, at the cemetery kiosk or from the Clover Hill Park Cemetery website, cloverhillpark.org.
Clover Hill is also working with the nonprofit ReBoot to connect the life stories, photos and memories of loved ones right from the cemetery website.
“Everyone I’ve talked with is enthusiastic about the new Berman Shiva Center, upcoming programs and the technological advances we are bringing to the cemetery and to the community,” Raznik said.
Added Starr, “In so many ways, Clover Hill Park Cemetery continues to expand its ability to serve modern Jews and to care for them with the dignity, warmth and compassion that Judaism demands of us in walking through the valley of the shadow of death.”