Our Newest Guardians: Karen and Stuart Zanger
In the afternoon hours of New Year’s Eve 2019, my husband Stuart and I made a decision that felt like a satisfying way to start to 2020. We made the commitment to support Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati beyond the length of our own lives, through a pledge to Create Your Jewish Legacy. It was a decision that was a rather long time in the making, even if it was probably a foregone conclusion!
Stu and I love what’s made Cincinnati our Jewish home for 32 years now—our temple, our havurah, and those we have worked beside in all sorts of community projects. Beloved friends and family who have passed on, as well as local icons we have watched from a distance, have modeled for us a spirit of communal work and multi-generational commitment to Jewish philanthropy. That spirit has nurtured so many great institutions here for the past 200 years, and now we feel ready to do our part.
We chose to make our legacy pledge to Jewish Cemeteries for many reasons. As a JCGC board member for the past few years, I have been impressed with how devoted its staff and volunteer leadership are to the organization’s unique mission. Every step along the way, from answering the phone to handling data to operating a shovel, its people take to heart the sacred trust placed in them by every individual that JCGC’s work touches. My children’s generation deserve to be met at the end of their lives by the same compassion and respect.
Also, I love and have never feared cemeteries. As a kid in Milford, I had a friend whose foster parents were on-site caretakers of a cemetery, so she and I spent many pleasant hours in her familiar space. My parents took our family on explorations of historic sites and Native American burial grounds, and encouraged us to honor the space but stay curious. So, I was excited when I was invited to join the Board, and honored to be asked by one of JCGC’s Founders, Ed Marks. I’m glad to be able to help in work which will preserve our Jewish cemeteries.
Finally, I credit Jewish Cemeteries in part for our family’s recent very “deep dive” into all our branches’ genealogy, led by our daughter, Jess. I believe that knowing about JCGC “from the inside” helped motivate her, and therefore us. We have now discovered and visited family graves in two Jewish cemeteries on Long Island, in a ridge-top cemetery near Horseheads, NY, in a gravesite hidden in trees and brush in a Cincinnati industrial park, and even in pioneer cemeteries in College Hill and Lebanon—plus many more graves located online via databases, of which ours at JCGC is a part. The stories of all those lives were not lost to us, in part because people performed sacred burials and then preserved cemeteries and records. This is exactly the work of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati, and it doesn’t come cheap. Stu and I feel lucky to be able to help sustain it with our Create Your Jewish Legacy gift. We hope many will join us.