On October 25, 2015, we gathered at Beth David Synagogue in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania (Montgomery County, outside Philadelphia), for a tour and lecture by resident experts on the topic of nearby historic Har Hasetim Cemetery (which is being renamed Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery). The Synagogue and its staff were very gracious to all the visitors and the rabbi came through the lobby to say hello. Rachael Griffith of the LandHealth Institute greeted everyone and made introductions. Everyone was invited back after the tour for refreshments and to discuss a variety of topics relevant to the cemetery's revitalization, including headstone restoration, gravestone mapping and database creation, and restoring the cemetery's forest ecology. Har Hasetim, a few hundred feet down Conshohocken State Road from the synagogue, is now owned by Beth David Reform Congregation, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
at least in the northeastern United States). It is nature’s last gasp before the snow flies. November 1, Día de los Muertos, is the Mexican Day of the Dead, when friends and family are remembered who have died. During my recent trip to Har Hasetim, I thought about how close it was in time to Kol Nidre, that solemn time of remembrance (the end of September) when many Jews visit the graves of their parents. This day in Gladwyne, however, was more of a celebration of the future of this historic landmark, the day of the public unveiling of the master plan for its rejuvenation as a permanent memorial to the Jewish population in Philadelphia.
The previous times I’d been here I just bumbled in by myself, not really knowing whose property lines to avoid. Turns out I was trespassing! During the tour, we were led into the cemetery along the “Bridlewild Trail,” an easement right-of-way created back when people rode horses through these parts. Currently, the path leads up someone’s driveway and through their back yard.
"I got a call from a neighbor who said, there's a bulldozer at the cemetery and they are going to bulldoze the graves," said Richard Elkman, who created the Committee to Save the Gladwyne Jewish Cemetery. The neighbor "was out there with a shotgun to hold them off." - Philly.com
Land Health Institute.
From the Philly.com article, "Effort to restore an old Jewish cemetery:
"The group envisions trails and contemplative spaces, and wants to research the histories of those buried at the cemetery. Digital mapping technology may be incorporated so that visitors can pick a gravestone and use a mobile device to discover the background of the person beneath it.
The transformation will cost more than $1 million, according to the group, which is developing a fund-raising plan.
"We want to tell the story of the cemetery," said Stephen Anderer of Wynnewood [President of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery]."It's the story of Jewish immigration at the turn of the century, particularly poor Jewish immigrants. This is a beautiful place to tell that story."
|"Cradle" graves to hold plantings|
A reflecting pool is planned for the site, possibly near the bottom of the property shown in this photo.
It was a wonderful experience being in the company of all these enthused, learned people who are so passionate about respect – the respect our ancestors deserve. I also felt good about being here for the first time without trespassing! Details should be worked out soon as to how the public can access the property. If you would like to keep up with the progress of the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery, visit the cemetery, or help in any way, please visit the website or email them at email@example.com.
References and Further Reading: