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28 January 2014

The Kelly Street Historic Jewish Cemeteries of Indianapolis, Indiana

By the middle of the 19th century, the population of the city of Indianapolis, Indiana included a large German community. Sometime shortly before 1856, the earliest of the Jewish settlers in Indianapolis also made this community their home. In 1856, the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation (IHC) was formed, which became the first in the city.As the congregation grew older it became necessary to buy land for the burials of its members and
that they did so. A large piece of land  was purchased on Kelly Street.

Over time, especially with the immigration from Eastern Europe in the 1880s, more and more immigrants meant more synagogues. They all needed to have their own burial grounds, so land was sold to them by IHC. This led to the land actually become not one but eight burial grounds serving the various Jewish Congregations. Those congregations were;
  • Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation 
  • Shara Tefilo                                     
  • Ohev Zedeck                                     
  • Knesses Israel                                  
  • United Hebrew Congregation           
  • Esras Achem                                   
  • Congregation Etz Haim Sefarad    
  • Congregation Beth-El Zedeck          
Beginning in 2006 the Kelly Street Historic Jewish Cemetery project was formed. Under the direction of Gloria Green, the project leader, teams set out to document and photograph the records of the burials in these historical cemeteries located on Kelly Street. Their incredible work has led to having the information on over 5,600 burials preserved for future generations. Thanks to their service to the Jewish community of Indianapolis and the world, these great people, who have passed, will never be forgotten.

I am also extremely humbled to have had a copy of this project donated to the Knowles Collection- Jews of North America. It will be available for all after the next update.

13 January 2014

Jewish Cemeteries of Utah

Many people are actually very surprised to learn that the Jewish history of the State of Utah goes back even before Utah was a state. Utah was granted statehood in 1896, by which time the Jewish community had been established for over 30 years. There were Jews here before that even, in fact my own great-great-grandfather arrived in 1858, however it wasn't until the early 1860's that we begin to have record of Jews observing religious events.
The first Jewish cemetery in Utah was established in 1866, when Mormon President Brigham Young deeded land from the Salt Lake City cemetery to the Jewish community. 
Today there are 3 Jewish cemeteries in Salt Lake City, all located in and around the Salt Lake City cemetery. They are;
  • Congregation B'nai Israel Cemetery
  • Congregation Montefiore Cemetery
  • Shaarei Zedek Cemetery
 There was also a group of Jews who traveled the 40 miles or so north from Salt Lake City to Ogden, Utah. This group were mostly merchants and traders who established the Ogden community. They also established a cemetery. It was;
  •  Mountain View Cemetery, later bought and the name changed to Aultorest cemetery.

The records of all 4 cemeteries have been photographed and indexed and are now part of the Knowles Collection- Jews of North America database.

B'nai Israel Cemetery

10 January 2014

The Jews of Moldova

The Jewish history of Moldova dates back to the 1400's when Sephardic Jews began using the area as a trade route. These merchants needed a way to travel between the Black Sea and Poland. Present day Moldova was part of an area known as Bessarabia, which was basically the area between the Prut and Dniestr rivers. As time went on the northern and central parts of the area became home to Jewish communities. Later the communities spread throughout the area.
By the 1700's several Jewish communities 
had been established. The majority of the Jews in these communities were traders or involved in the distilling of liquor. The communities grew to the point that by 1812 their was an estimated 20,000 Jews living permanently in Moldova.
In 1812, Moldova fell under Russian rule. At the time there were over a dozen Jewish schools and 70 synagogues. The community was truly striving. By the late 1830, the Jewish population had grown to almost 100,000 and more than doubled again by the end of 19th century.
For the most part the Bessarabia region was free from the Russian anti-Jewish laws, however that began to change by about 1835, when  Bessarabia began to lose its autonomy. This led to the anti-Jewish laws being applied to all Jews, including those in Bessarabia.
 At least 4 times, in 1869, 1879, 1886 and 1891 the government issued decrees forcing the Jews out of various cities. Even with this anti-Jewish rule, the population continued to grow, and by 1900, at least half of the population of Kishinev was Jewish. However in the early 1900's tensions between the Jews and non-Jews mounted leading to the massacre of Jews that took place in 1903 and 1905 in Kishinev. These massacres, and the fact that the soldiers did nothing to stop them started the emigration of Jews out of Moldova.
The Russian Revolution brought some peace for the Jews of Bessarabia, however in 1918, Romania took control and the Jewish communities really began to prosper. The Jews received Romanian citizenship and were permitted to build schools and hospitals. By the early 1920's there were well over 125 Jewish schools and 13 Jewish hospitals. The Jewish population had now grown to over 265,000 people.
The Germans invaded Moldova in July of 1941. The majority of the Jewish community was either deported to camps or massacred on the spot. The city of Kishinev alone had over 50,000 people killed. In August of 1944, the Russians retook the area. Under the communist rule, the Jews were not allowed to practice their traditions. By 1964, all but 1 synagogue was closed.
With the fall of Communism and Civil War within the country, most of the Jewish population has now immigrated to other countries, mainly Israel and the United States. Today, because of that the Jewish population is most likely under 5,000.