The Memory Garden

Efforts are underway to complete The Memory Garden, the country's first Jewish sacred space for mourning fertility loss.

With the community's continued support, this special space for mourning, remembrance, and healing will soon grow.

Researchers estimate that 15% of women in the United States will miscarry. One in three women experience miscarriage or infertility in their lives. One in every 160 pregnancies results in stillbirth, and one in six couples experience infertility. These numbers are higher in the Bay Area, where there is greater wealth, higher education rates and skilled career patterns – all factors in delayed maternal age, which is linked to increased miscarriage. Medical providers are often the first people with whom an individual experiencing fertility loss comes into contact. Medical practitioners often unwittingly provide Jewish patients with culturally and religiously insensitive information and pre-suppose fetal disposal, which can be deeply upsetting for Jewish patients.

While our Jewish community has beautiful lifecycle traditions, we have yet to normalize Jewish rituals and evolve Jewish community acknowledgement of the common experience of fertility loss.

According to Jewish law, no formal burial or funeral is held for a miscarriage, stillbirth, or for an infant who dies before reaching the age of 30 days, nor is the traditional seven-day mourning period of Shiva observed. Given the high infant-mortality rate of generations past, families would have been in mourning almost constantly without these proscriptions. While these customs were created to nurture and protect families, today we are less hesitant than generations past to speak frankly about our challenges, losses, needs, and aspirations. We are more likely to seek comfort and strength in not only speaking about our losses, but also in memorializing them, and often seek communal embrace and Jewish recognition of our losses.

The Memory Garden was started by Debbie Findling and Abby Porth – two moms who suffered pregnancy loss. They launched The Memory Garden project in recognition of the importance and value of Jewish memorial space and ritual for grappling with death and loss. The Memory Garden envisions normalization of Jewish community conversation, ritual practice, and acknowledgement of pregnancy loss.

The garden is open to any who grieve the deep loss of their unborn children. Whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or infertility, it is a space for mourning, remembrance, and healing. 

Located in a beautiful setting at Eternal Home Cemetary, the Jewish cemetery in Colma, the garden is owned and operated by Sinai Memorial Chapel Chevra Kadisha and will serve as a place for clergy and spiritual caregivers to gather for healing rituals and ceremonies. Sinai Memorial Chapel has gifted the land to the project at no cost, has committed to maintaining The Memory Garden in perpetuity, and has 100% board participation in the project.

The second component of The Memory Garden project – education and outreach initiatives – will be planned and implemented by a wider array of Jewish organizations, including Jewish Family and Children's Services and the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. These initiatives include support and programs for individuals and families suffering from pregnancy losses, opportunities to elevate communal conversation about the unique grief and isolation felt in fertility loss – known as “disenfranchised loss,” outreach to and education for medical professionals on culturally relevant and religiously sensitive information and referrals, and engagement of Jewish community professionals and clergy to enable them to better serve their constituents.

Serving the entire Jewish community.

Individuals, couples, and families who identify as secular or religious, Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Orthodox or post-denominational, those who identify as affiliated or unaffiliated, men and women, young and old, the LGBT community, and interfaith couples will all find The Memory Garden and its programming to be engaging. The Memory Garden is unique in that it is truly open to everyone in the community as the communal space for mourning and reflection. 

Make a donation.

The total cost of The Memory Garden project is estimated at $903,468.  If you would like to contribute, please donate by sending a check or filling out the online donation form.

Check contributions to The Memory Garden can be made payable to the Jewish Community Federation with “The Memory Garden Fund” in the memo line and sent to: Jewish Community Federation, Attention: Jayne Sorensen, Manager, General Fund Accounting, 121 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.

For more information, please contact:
Julie Golde
Senior Director of Community Impact