Countless synagogues devote yahrzeit boards and plaques to honor people who have passed. In the coming months, one synagogue will feature a similar memorial … for pets.
Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah, a Modern Orthodox synagogue, is planning to erect a memorial board to pay tribute to deceased pets. The idea came from congregant and ardent animal lover Robbie Silverman. The panel will be featured in the synagogue’s youth room and will accommodate up to 50 plaques.
Silverman, 53, approached MMAE’s Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro with the concept after his cat, Sylvester, passed away last March. A second cat, Tweety, died in 2006. He had owned both cats since 1999.
Silverman hopes that the memorial will serve as a way to remember beloved pets as well as bring the animal-loving community closer together.
“I figured, we have the yahrzeit wall [for people]. What do we have for our pets? Nothing,” Silverman said. “I think when you see the names up there, it’s going to let other people know that we’re all in this together. Pet owners are people who appreciate their animals. We’ll laugh together, we’ll cry together, we are one.”
Silverman credited Rabbi Shapiro and MMAE President Jeff Forman for their open-mindedness and support for the project.
Rabbi Shapiro said that the idea of a tribute for pets is particularly appropriate given the prevalence of caring for animals in the Torah. He said that in addition to Silverman, other congregants have already expressed interest in memorializing their pets on the board.
Silverman said that he hopes the idea will catch on and spread into other religious settings.
“I hope it gets picked up everywhere, and that every church and every synagogue will do something like this,” he said. “I just want their names up there and people to understand what our pets mean to us. I don’t care if it’s a fish, a bird, an alligator, a dog or a cat — it doesn’t matter. They are part of the family.”