Kelman honored for work on green cemetery

Rabbi Stuart Kelman, the force behind Gan Yarok, the first Jewish green cemetery in North America, has been named a recipient of the Green Burial Council’s 2012 Leadership Award. Kelman shares the honor with the Rev. Charles Morris of Wyandotte, Mich.

Kelman founded Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley in 1989, and went on to become president of Kavod v’Nichum, a national organization of people involved in chevra kadisha (burial society) work.

In 2010, he helped to open Gan Yarok (green garden) as a new Jewish section of the Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley. It has space for 500 graves, including Orthodox, Conservative and community areas, each with its own regulations. In accordance with green building principles, no concrete liners or embalming fluids are used; and natural rocks with name plaques, wildflowers and small trees serve as grave markers in place of granite, concrete and bronze headstones.

The GBC’s annual leadership award goes to individuals who have demonstrated “an extraordinary commitment to bringing about contemporary burial practices that best serve the changing needs of people and the planet,” according to a spokesperson.