As a civic cemetery, Forest Hill is a space that is open to people from a variety of different religious communities throughout Madison. This section explores how Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Hmong traditions are all represented within this space, and why members of each of the above communities might regard the cemetery as a sacred space. We will look into both the cosmological belief systems and the forms of remembrance that contribute individually and collectively to the “sacredness” of Forest Hill Cemetery.

The information you will read in this site was gathered from scholarly texts and the voices of members from the different faiths  represented at Forest Hill. We wish to thank Father Mark Miller (Catholic priest at St. Paul Church), Reverend Brad Pohlman (Lutheran pastor at Lutheran Memorial Church), Professor Charles Cohen (History, UW-Madison), Professor Ulrich Rosenhagen (Religious Studies, UW-Madison), Professor Jonathan Polack (Jewish Studies, UW-Madison),  Andrea Steinberger (Rabbi at Hillel Foundation, UW-Madison) Professor Choua Lee (Hmong language expert at UW-Madison), and Seethong Yang (M.A. student in Southeast Asian Studies UW-Madison).

Professor Cohen identifies Forest Hill as a space of negotiation, in which we accord respect to other people and their beliefs, even if we are not always completely happy about what they believe. In this sense, the cemetery is a kind of middle ground in which groups that might not always share the same space in life, congregate together as one community of the dead. In this section of the website, we are sharing our findings on what we believe are the main characteristics of how religious traditions conceive of a cemetery as a sacred space.

Catholic and Lutheran Traditions

From a Christian perspective, how a body is disposed does not affect the afterlife or final resurrection of the deceased. One might wonder then, if the corpse of a Christian person might be buried in any place or way, why would a cemetery be important at all for Christians? Two answers come to mind. First, […]

Jewish Traditions

As you explore Forest Hill Cemetery, you may notice that most of the Jewish graves at Forest Hill are grouped into one section of the cemetery, identified as the Jewish section, a practice not shared by some of the other religious communities represented at Forest Hill. This tendency toward isolation stems in part from the […]


The Hmong are an ethnic group originally from a mountainous region in China and Southeast Asia. In Madison, a great number of the Hmong community came from Laos as refugees during the Vietnam war, and after the 1990’s some of the Hmong immigrants came from Vietnam and China. Still today, most of the Hmong community […]