Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Car causes damage at Brothers of Israel Cemetery

I guess it was inevitable. After a year of writing entries for the Trenton Jewish Project blog, I would hit the trifecta of a lot of work, a number of family commitments (all good) and a little writer's block thrown in. All of these things have conspired to slow down the flow of information on this blog to a trickle. It's not for a lack of trying. I've probably started writing this entry 10 times. Each time, it's been the electronic equivalent of wadding up a sheet of yellow lined paper and throwing it in the trash. Over and over again, a dissatisfaction with either the topic or the mindset and suddenly a few months have gone by without a word. 

Well, last Friday, the clouds and rain broke for a few hours and I took a ride over to Brothers of Israel Cemetery on Liberty and Vroom Streets in Trenton. On March 30th, Ben Racusin, who I met at the talk I gave at Adath Israel in January, posted to the Trenton Jewish Project Facebook group page that a car had crashed through the fence of the cemetery and that there had been damage to some tombstones. He also reported that the sign above the gates of the cemetery was missing. I was out of town at the time and e-mailed a note to Rabbi Grossman at Adath Israel. Sharon Ettinger Segarra, who works at Brothers of Israel responded on the page that she had let the office know. Jill Mosovich in Florida, who is also a member of the group (which now numbers 96-if you want to join, go to the page and click the button to request joining the group), mentioned that she had family members buried there, too. A little history--- The cemetery, actually started as the Har Sinai Cemetery Association 165 years ago. Brothers of Israel purchased the adjoining lot in 1885.  As Albert Stark explained to me in January, there is a hedge that separates the Har Sinai area from the Brothers of Israel land. Brothers expanded the cemetery in 1907 when it purchased an additional lot and eventual bought more land at Cedar Lane. So, needless to say the graves in the Vroom Street location are extremely old. So, when the weather broke last week, I ventured out to look for myself. I must tell you that it was a little eerie, because there was a Trenton Police helicopter circling high overhead as I pulled up. It turns out that there had been a school bus accident in Chambersburg at about the same time and they must have been looking for the person who ran from the scene of the crime. 

 Here's what I saw when I got to the cemetery. A section of the fencing on Dayton Avenue was missing and another section was damaged. As you can see from the picture above, the gravestones that are adjacent to the missing fence are still standing, but there are two stones next to the damaged fence that are down. I didn't touch the stones, but as you can see, they are right next to one that reads Lillian Davis Mosovich, who passed in 1934. I don't know what names are on the stones, but there are definitely two stones down. 

On closer inspection, the stone to the right of Lillian Davis Mosvich's is that of Samson Davis, who died the same year. So, those two stones appear to be the only ones that have fallen due to the most recent auto accident. 

 I decided to walk around the cemetery for a few more minutes, because a number of people have told me that if you wanted to learn about the history of the Jews of Trenton, you needed to start with the cemeteries. What I found was fairly distressing. By no means were the only toppled stones the ones near the fence on Dayton. 

 I've taken some pictures to document what I found. In most cases, it's hard to tell whose names are on the stones without picking them up and cleaning them off. Again, I didn't touch any of them, so I don't know who's stones they are. 

The one on the left says Sidney, son of Meyer and Amelia Schwab, who apparently died at the age of 4 in 1888. Meyer Schwab was an optician and occulist whose office was at 7 East State Street.   There is another small stone in front of it with the inscription face down. 

There is another stone that has fallen in front of Simon Cohen's grave. Cohen died in 1903 at age 76, who died on October 29th, I believe the year was 1913, but can't read the engraving well enough to be sure. 

  In front of the headstone for Avraham and Rivkah Swern is a stone that is tilted backwards.  It marks the final resting place of Morris Freedman, who passed away on October 29, 1919. He is listed in the 1900 Trenton City Directory.   He was apparently in business with the Vine family with the shirt manufacturer Vine and Freedman.    There is a genealogy website that cites Freedman's business dealings here.

The grave to the right of that stone is for Private Samuel Price who was killed in action in 1918. Price's name is commemorated on one of the plaques on the front porch of the Trenton War Memorial.  

 To his right is the stone for Rebecca Scull, who passed in 1963. Pvt. Price and Mrs. Scull's stones are in good shape. 

Joseph Greenberg's headstone has fallen on the footstone of Samuel Lavine.   According to the family website at Genealogy.com, Greenberg emigrated to the U.S. in 1894 and in the 1910 census was listed as a builder.  In the 1920 census, he was listed as the owner of City Flour.   Samuel Lavine died in 1919 at the age of 32.  This link takes you to an ancestry.com page that lists some of the public records for Lavine.  Although the date of death on the website is listed as October 3 the headstone lists October 4th as the date of death.

My purpose in publishing these pictures is simply to raise awareness that there is a lot of history in the cemeteries in Trenton and that each stone tells a story.  It would be a shame if, due to neglect some of this history is lost.


1 comment:

  1. My grandmother, Esther Freidman, and my grand-uncle, Benjamin Brodner are buried in the cemetery that was damaged by a car collision. Years ago, I tried to find the grave of my grandfather, Samuel Brodner, in a cemetery (Bros. of Israel?? or another small cemetery?) on Cedar Lane (or is it Greenwood Avenue?). I could not find the gravestone. I plan on contacting Joel Orland of Ewing Funeral Home to see if he can provide me with a map of that little cemetery and a location for the remains of my grandfather. I hope they are still there (and not dug up and replaced with other bodies).

    Thanks, Ed, for all you do for Trenton Jewry. Much appreciated. By the way, Jill Mosovich lived a stone's throw away from me as we were growing up, and her dad, Scotty, drove me and some friends of mine to Trenton Central High School every day. Avasholom.

    I DO have photos of my relatives' graves at the cemetery that got damaged. I will try to find them and send them to you.

    Lou (Bob) Posner, Trentonite