Newton, MA –A dynamic group of thirteen teens from eleven high schools, representing six different communities across greater Boston have come together to make up the spring 2015 cohort of Brandeis|HSP Design Lab Teen Fellows with the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts (JCAM). The fellows have coalesced into a team of designers, directly applying their newly learned design thinking skills to relocate JCAM’s Genizah (repository for storing sacred materials) from one of its cemetery chapels to a larger chapel to be redesigned and repurposed into JCAM’s Genizah and Education Center on the Baker Street Jewish Cemeteries (West Roxbury). The new location (Sons of Abraham Chapel) will not only house sacred materials prior to burial, but a new education center has been incorporated into the design for JCAM’s “Cemeteries Are for the Living” educational tours.

The Process

Fellows were presented with five proposals of real design challenges facing local Jewish organizations. Through a thought-provoking debate, the teens evaluated each challenge based on its potential "awesomeness" "achievability" and "impact". In the end the teens chose JCAM as the recipient of the transformation of its unused Sons of Abraham chapel into the community Genizah and education space.

Once the design challenge was selected the fellows interviewed JCAM, observed the way the Genizah functioned and collected insights into the needs of its end users. Fellows visited analogous spaces- a newly re-designed bookstore and a "maker space"- to expand their research on design ideas for the cemetery project. By the end of the fourth session the fellows had developed three prototypes of potential designs for the chapel and presented them to JCAM for feedback.

Based on the feedback from JCAM, fellows finalized one final design and presented it once again to JCAM. Final edits were made to the design and they began to clean up the chapel while developing a budget and work plan. With power tools, paint brushes, old fashioned elbow grease and well-thought out mapping of the space, the fellows have transformed the Sons of Abraham chapel into a beautiful new space that will allow JCAM to better serve the Jewish Community. JCAM has taken the responsibility of collecting and storing sacred materials (tallism, teffilin, worn out siddurim, Torah scrolls and other unusable Judaica containing the Hebrew name of G-d) from the Jewish community where it is sorted and made ready for JCAM’s annual book burial.

The education center located within the newly redesigned chapel will be used as part of JCAM’s cemetery educational tour program. The education center will now have a designated area within the Genizah for cemetery tour participants to view an interactive presentation and to learn how sacred materials are handled. JCAM is thrilled to have been selected for this exciting project by the Brandeis|HSP Design Lab Teen Fellows. The project is sponsored by CJP and Union for Reform Judaism.

The Project Launch & Rededication

The teen fellows and JCAM will be hosting a re-dedication and launch of the new Genizah and Education Center at the Sons of Abraham Chapel on Sunday, April 26 at 2:00 pm (766 Baker Street, West Roxbury). The community is welcome to attend.