Panama chabad: We'll start with a cemetery

New chabad couple moves into Boquete, Panama, yet their first project will be for the dead, not the living.

Rachel Kaplan ,

Map of Boquete, Panama
Map of Boquete, Panama

A new chabad couple in Boquete, Panama, will start their community work this summer - with a Jewish cemetery.

Chabad emissaries Rabbi Yakov and Hana Poliwoda, currently working in Panama City, will be moving at the end of the summer Boquete, Panama, 30 miles from the Costa Rica border.

“It’s far from Panama City,” acknowledges Hana Poliwoda. “But we’re excited not only to learn together and teach, but to build a community here as well.” points out that "Most Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries launch their arrival in a new city or country with programs such as one-on-one study, holiday programs, summer camp and Hebrew school." However, with the exorbitant cost of shipping bodies to the United States for burial, the Poliwodas see a Jewish cemetary as their top priority.

“We see the need to open the cemetery as incredibly important,” says Hana. “We’re looking to educate people about the beauty and importance of a traditional Jewish burial.”

Unwilling to cover the cost of burying their loved ones in the United States, many local Jews opt to bury their dead in local non-Jewish cemeteries, or to cremate them, which is against Jewish law.

Boquete is roughly 500 kilometers due west from Panama City, where an estimated 12,000 Jews live. Currently, four other Chabad couples live and work in the capital.