United States -- neglected Jewish cemeteries are also an issue

Sue Fishkoff has written an important article on JTA highlighting the plight of abandoned Jewish cemeteries -- not in Eastern Europe, but in the United States. Brava Sue!

The plight is far worse in Europe, where thousands of cemeteries lie abandoned in the wake of the Holocaust. But it is important for North American Jews to recognize that there is a similar issue exists "at home," wherever Jews have moved away or moved on. Sue cites the Jewish Cemetery Project of the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies as listing at least 1,375 Jewish cemeteries in the United States and 72 in Canada. (There are about that many Jewish cemeteries in Hungary alone, most of them abandoned.)

Shouldering the burden of forgotten cemeteries

By Sue Fishkoff, · September 20, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) -- The old Jewish cemetery in Eufaula, Ala., hasn’t been used in years.
“The monuments are just crumbling,” said Sara Hamm.
She and her family are the last Jews living in this once-booming cotton and railway town on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.
The Jewish cemetery’s first burial dates from 1845, when German Jews began arriving as merchants and dry goods salesmen. They bought a synagogue in 1873, but sold it in the early 1900s when their numbers dwindled to several dozen. The cemetery, with its 84 burial plots, fell into disrepair.
In the mid-1980s Hamm’s grandmother Jennie Rudderman began restoring it, righting headstones and clearing away brush. After she died in 1999, Hamm took over as volunteer caretaker. But the job is wearing her down.
“It’s been left to its own accord now, like everything else in small-town America,” she said.
Similar stories repeat across the land, from the rust belt of western Pennsylvania to the Bible Belt in the South.
As factories closed down and populations shifted westward, once-thriving Jewish communities declined and synagogues shut their doors. The only thing left behind, in many cases, were the cemeteries -- with no one, or almost no one, to take care of them.
“The Jewish community knows there is a problem of abandoned cemeteries, but they feel it’s someone else’s problem, or the problem of the descendants of those buried there,” said Gary Katz, president of the 4-year-old Community Association for Jewish At-Risk Cemeteries, or CAJAC, which spearheads efforts to clean and maintain distressed cemeteries in New York City. “But throughout Jewish history, cemeteries have been a communal responsibility.”
 Read full story at JTA by clicking HERE