Saturday, April 7, 2012

Geographically off topic -- but right on target

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I came across a wonderful post on the Cemetery Traveler blog about a visit to an abandoned Jewish cemetery in Gladwyne, PA  -- only a few miles from where I grew up in suburban Philadelphia.

The description of the abandoned site -- and the evocative photographs taken by the blogger, Ed Snyder -- are so similar to those of people exploring abandoned Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe that I felt I had to repost.

Snyder writes:
Walking through this place is a MUST for any cemetery explorer – you may be appalled, afraid, amazed, or desire to use the location for your next zombie movie. You walk into the place and it starts off quaint - the tilted headstones, the  lone cradle graves. As you walk further through the weeds, you begin to see small clusters of graves, surrounded by rusty decorative fencing. Most of the fencing has fallen to the ground and is waiting for you to trip over. [...]

The history of this place is not well-documented. The fragments of supposed fact come from letters and oral recollections. "Har Ha Zetim Cemetery", aka Gladwyne Jewish Cemetery and "Mount of Olives," was supposedly established in 1860, and served the poor Jewish population of Philadelphia and Norristown until the 1920s. No doubt some of the the people interred here emigrated from Russia during the pogrom in 1881. The fact that this exodus occurred on Passover of that year oddly coincides with my writing this blog on the eve of Passover, 2012. [...]

Walking through Gladwyne's Abandoned Jewish Cemetery is not like finding a lonely outcropping of headstones in a farmer’s field somewhere – this was a COMMUNITY! A community of ancestors, now lost to the ages. But as you walk through the lanes of graves, the presence of all these people is alive in the air, they were REAL. They lived. They had rites, manners, and customs that were as real to them as ours are to us.
 Read the full post 
Snyder provides  links to further reading about abandoned Jewish cemeteries in the Philadelphia area, including this article from the Forward in 2004 about a Jewish cemetery in west Philadelphia that explicitly makes the parallel with the rediscovery of Jewish cemeteries in eastern and Central Europe, and his own blog post about the site.

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