Completion of the new Barnett Family Reflection Room is expected in the spring and an adjacent patio is planned for outdoor gatherings, such as after an unveiling.
Traditionally, families who have lost a loved one conduct daily services and receive visitors at the family home for a week after the funeral. They gather with friends for comfort and often share memories of the deceased individual. Family members often eat together during the shivah period.
But times have changed. According to Kim Raznik, executive director of Clover Hill Park Cemetery in Birmingham, today many shivahs have been reduced to one to three days. This is due in part to distance —Detroiters have spread out geographically and more family members live out of town. Sometimes there is no family member left in Detroit who has a home for a shivah.
Clover Hill Park Cemetery, which was established by Congregation Shaarey Zedek in 1918, is trying to meet families’ changing needs. Raznik explains that “just prior to COVID, we renovated the Berman Administration building (located at the cemetery), creating an indoor area to accommodate families who wanted to gather after a funeral service or an unveiling to hold shivah or gather with family and friends. It was well received as many people travel from out of town and have no space to gather other than a restaurant.”
A few events were held in the Berman Remembrance Center before COVID spread. As COVID progressed, it became more challenging to hold funerals and shivahs safely. Families were reluctant to welcome guests into their homes and risk virus transmission. The Michigan Board of Rabbis recommended its members refrain from visiting private homes for safety reasons. Some temples and synagogues began offering outdoor or indoor space for shivahs.
“Ideally and traditionally, shivah belongs at home. But people are becoming more spread out, and it’s not safe to be in a home,” says Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek. The congregation has hosted outdoor shivahs and other events at its Southfield facility and grounds. In addition, some shivah services are held in its main sanctuary with participants distanced and masked in this very large space. “We need to honor the deceased and comfort mourners, and achieve those mitzvot safely,” he explains.
Additional Options at the Cemetery
Clover Park Hill Cemetery is adding additional options for families who want to hold a shivah or commemorate an unveiling at the cemetery.
Ground was broken in December for a new Barnett Family Reflection Room, attached to the administrative building but with its own entrance. This 1,000-square-foot addition, designed by David Lubin, will be available for rent for shivah or for gatherings after an unveiling. Clover Hill’s program coordinator, Sharday Selby, will assist families with kosher catering and other event arrangements.
The new facility is named in honor of donors Ken and Mari Barnett. Completion is expected in the spring and an adjacent patio is planned for outdoor gatherings, such as after an unveiling. Raznik points out that many unveilings have increased in size because some funerals held during the earlier days of COVID were limited to the immediate family.
With COVID, more families are holding funerals in the Davidson/Hermelin Chapel, located close to the cemetery’s administrative building, which eliminates the trip from a funeral home to the cemetery.
Additional outdoor space is being built adjacent to the Davidson/Hermelin Chapel. Raznik says that this addition — encompassing a terrace and expanded outdoor entryway — will accommodate guest overflow and provide space for families to gather safely before and after funerals. This expansion is being donated by Harriet and Gregg Orley.
Raznik adds that there are plans to hold other programs and services in both new spaces. “We want to make things easy,” she says. She believes that Clover Hill
Park is the only local cemetery to offer these on-site facilities.
For more information about the shivah center, visit www.cloverhillpark.org/berman-shiva-center.