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23 minutes


Jewish Cemeteries, Undertakers and Undertaking, Sustainability -- Oregon


Interview of Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman by Austin Rosenfeld in NW Portland, Oregon on August 7th, 2009.

The interview index is available for download.


Arthur Zuckerman became the Rabbi of Shaarie Torah in Portland, Oregon in 2009. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a Bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland before moving on to Rabbinical school.


This interview, of Rabbi Zuckerman, was conducted by Austin Rosenfeld on March 6, 2009. Zuckerman works at the Congregation Shaarie Torah, and he describes how bodies are prepared for burial and family involvement after death. There is a specific ritual that is performed for the deceased, and plain wooden or cardboard caskets are used to promote decomposition. In the Jewish tradition, there are no open viewings of the body, resulting in a lack of unsustainable preservative chemicals. Different states have different legal systems that dictate the condition of burial plots (which are often comprised of concrete, subsequently preventing rapid decomposition). There are certain things that will prevent an individual from being buried in a Jewish cemetery, such as a death related to suicide and not being of the Jewish faith. Every grave must also have a marked headstone to establish ownership of the site by the Shaarie Torah. Zuckerman relates sustainability to education of the Jewish faith because it has continued for 5000 years and the overall practice of promoting natural decomposition is environmentally friendly.

This interview is part of “The Sustainability History Project: Documenting Sustainable Development and Practice in the Pacific Northwest” at Portland State University.


This digital access copy is made available as streaming media for personal, educational, and non-commercial use within the parameters of “fair use” as defined under U.S. Copyright law. It cannot be reproduced, distributed, or broadcasted for commercial purposes. For more information, please contact Special Collections at Portland State University Library at: or (503) 725-9883.

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