First Jewish Burial in Puerto Vallarta, a Significant Milestone
Menachem Posner - Chabad
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February 6, 2019

Rabbi Shneur Hecht worked for more than a year on creating the first Jewish cemetery in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

It’s been a little more than two years since Rabbi Shneur and Mushkie Hecht founded a Chabad center in Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Last Tuesday, their community observed a significant milestone: the first Jewish funeral in the city’s history. The deceased, Seymour Lestz, was a native of Philadelphia who had been living in Puerto Vallarta for about 13 years. Like many members of the local Jewish community—made up mostly of American and Canadian retirees who come to take advantage of the beautiful weather and favorable economy, where a modest pension fund can be stretched far—he had been planning to be cremated.

“We work very hard to educate people about the importance of being buried as a Jew,” the rabbi told “Cremation is very cheap and very simple here, and that’s what so many people had been planning to do, so we try to show them the beauty of Jewish burial, which has been our tradition since Abraham buried Sarah in Hebron.”

But where could the Jews of Puerto Vallarta be buried? Until this week, the closest Jewish cemetery was in Guadalajara, a five-hour drive to the east.

Identifying the lack of Jewish cemetery as a key issue in a community with many elderly people, the Hechts had been working on creating a Jewish cemetery for more than a year.

They purchased a section within the local Paradise Memorial Park and set to work preparing for their first funeral. That included importing tachrichim (burial shrouds), working with a local funeral home to ensure that they would be able to perform the taharah (“purification”) there and assembling a team of volunteers to join them to form a chevra kadisha (“sacred [burial] society”).

Hecht reports that several couples have committed to be buried in the newly consecrated Jewish cemetery, and some have even purchased plots.

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