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Historic Jewish Cemeteries of Newark

Historic Jewish Cemeteries of Newark

Presented by Jewish Historical Society of Greater MetroWest NJ

The Jewish cemeteries of Newark are the last remnants of a once robust Jewish community that numbered 80,000 and worshipped at more than 50 shuls. The Greater MetroWest Jewish community has long-standing roots in Newark that date beyond the formal establishment of a Jewish community in 1923. In Newark, five Jewish cemetery areas designate the first roots of the community: B’nai Abraham Cemetery, Grove Street Cemetery, McClellan Street Cemeteries, Talmud Torah Cemetery, and Union Field.

Read on to learn more about the history of these cemeteries, some interesting facts, and what we at Federation and Jewish Community Foundation are doing to preserve these historic sites. You can also find maps and diagrams of the five existing cemeteries, as well as photos and artifacts from the archives of the Jewish Historical Society.

Artifacts from the Archives

The Rich History

Newark Jewish Cemeteries, which cover more than 60 acres in five geographic areas of Greater Newark and include 113 individual cemeteries, represent an important part of our history and heritage and serve as the final resting place for about 60,000 individuals. The five cemeteries are the B’nai Abraham Cemetery, Grove Street Cemetery, McClellan Street Cemeteries, Talmud Torah Cemetery, and Union Field. Each individual cemetery was started by a Jewish organization – synagogue, fraternal lodge, landsmannschaft, mutual aid society, burial society, benevolent society, trade union, etc. – many of whom emigrated and settled in Greater Newark. 

A deed registered in Newark in February 1847, for the sum of $50 acquired a parcel of land which became the Belmont Cemetery, the first cemetery used by the members of the Mendelsohn Benevolent Society and Congregation B’nai Jeshurun. This is the earliest known Jewish cemetery in Newark and was used from about 1848 to 1862. 

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater MetroWest NJ has more than two dozen collections with cemetery information containing 12 plot maps dating back 1916, 50 deeds to plot holders, 10 cemetery ledgers from various mutual aid societies and landsmanschafts dating back to 1922, and minutes and records from more than 30 synagogue cemetery committees and cemetery associations.   

Maintaining our historic Jewish cemeteries is essential not only for religious and cultural reasons but also for preserving history, fostering community identity, and ensuring that future generations can continue to honor and respect their ancestors.   

To learn more about our historic Newark Cemeteries and how you can help, contact Karen Auerbach Bocaletti, Jewish Historical Society Manager, at (973) 929-2954. 

Restoring Dignity to Our Ancestors

As the Jewish community transitioned out of Newark, little or no provisions for the upkeep or perpetual care of the cemeteries remained. Most of the cemeteries are crowded, with heavy headstones that are placed close together. Vandalism, age, and the natural environment over time had caused hundreds of headstones to topple – the cemeteries were nearly in disrepair. 

Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ stepped in to provide emergency funding, new perimeter fencing, and the resetting of upended headstones. 

The cemeteries are very old, but not deserted or forgotten, as they remain an integral part of the history of the Jews of Newark. Beth El Memorial Park Foundation (a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ (JCF) was created in 1994 to maintain the dignity and upkeep of the grounds and monuments.  In 2020, JCF received a generous donation, earmarked for the revitalization of the cemeteries, from the Stanley and Rela Banks Foundation. The partnership between Federation (including the Jewish Historical Society of Greater MetroWest NJ), JCF, and Sanford B. Epstein, Inc. has made and will continue to make a significant difference in the preservation of the historic cemeteries. 

To learn more about how to support these efforts, contact Sara Chambers, JCF Director of Stewardship and Targeted Giving, at (973) 929-3049. 

Documenting the Cemeteries for Future Generations

Most of the graves in the Newark cemeteries are documented in the JewishGen Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) and each entry generally includes the individual’s name, date of birth, date of death, and location in the cemetery.  With the help of volunteers, we hope to photograph the gravestones and send them into the database so that a photograph can accompany the burial information.   These photos will offer an opportunity for people living far away to “visit” their loved ones in these cemeteries, as well as to preserve the historical value of the graves.