Temple Beth-El was founded in 1931 as Richmond’s first Conservative Jewish congregation, blending traditionalism and support for Zionism with English speakers and Americanization. While the group was employing rented quarters for its synagogue, it purchased two acres in 1936 at the entrance to the modish new Forest Lawn Cemetery in northern Henrico County for use. The initiative was directed by the newly incorporated “Richmond Beth-El Cemetery Company.” In 1937, Rabbi Morris Frank of Temple Beth-El dedicated the site, opening it for all Jews following traditional burial rituals. Later that same year, in 1937, the cemetery company opened a new chapel onsite.
In 1949, the parent congregation finished its handsome new synagogue on Grove Avenue as its congregation continued to grow. By 1958, the affiliated cemetery company had added four more acres to its holdings, bringing Beth-El Cemetery’s size up to six total acres.
In 1997 and again in 2003, the directors interred in the grounds a genizah, or sacred repository, with “our Sifrei Kodesh holy books and ritual objects that were well-worn by loving hands.”
Recently, the cemetery company beautified the entrance with menorah-themed gates. Pressure had also built within the congregation for burial options for non-Jewish spouses and family members. So the cemetery directors acquired adjacent grounds in 2013 and 2018 to expand those options. Known as “Chesed Memorial Park,” this part of the grounds welcomed Jewish and non-Jewish burials after it opened in 2022.
For more information, see:
Temple Beth-El Richmond‘s website
Findagrave’s Beth El Cemetery site
Myron Berman, Richmond’s Jewry, 1769–1976: Shabbat in Shockoe (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia for the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, 1979)