Established in 1912, the Chesed Shel Emes Cemetery was founded on the principle of Judaism that refers to a “Duty of Truth”, a phrase with many different translations, including “true loving kindness”, and “charity of truth.” Its goal was to establish a space and an organization that would assist people who identified as Jewish but were not affiliated with a congregation or synagogue. Jewish Immigrants organized a Chesed Shel Emes Society to begin the work of creating such a space near Larpenteur and Prosperity Avenues.
An open iron arch with decorative scrolling over the entrance contains the cemetery name and provides a formal entry point. The five acres of the cemetery contain gently rolling terrain; deciduous and evergreen trees provide shade for the curving paths within the property. A central memorial garden is a focal point for the layout of burial plots.
There are Chesed Shel Emes Societies in cities around the country. In addition to providing a burial place, they provide the rites and rituals surrounding death. Specific rites in the Jewish faith set out the details for serving the deceased, and if the family cannot afford to have these done or if a person has no one to provide these services, a Chevra Kaddish (a group of men and women who perform the necessary death duties) will gather to ensure proper services.
Many of the first people buried in the cemetery hailed from the West Side Flats and hadn’t allied themselves with a formal congregation. Given the constant flooding in the West Side, the Society purchased land on the East Side to create the cemetery, and it is still in use to this day.
In 2021 a number of Jewish cemeteries in the Twin Cities were vandalized during the week surrounding Rosh Hashanah, including Chesed Shel Emes. These were surprising and devastating actions in a community that had begun to settle in the area beginning in the mid- to late-19th century; religious leaders of all denominations immediately denounced the vandalism and were vocal in support of the Jewish community.
Chesed Shel Emes is a unique cemetery; no such others are located in the Twin Cities and it performs a unique and valuable service to the Jewish community.