Letter from the Executive Director
On a beautiful Sunday morning, September 26, 2021, Jewish Cemeteries rededicated the Chestnut Street Cemetery and dedicated a new educational plaza. We partnered with Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial and the ish Festival to have the 200-year-old cemetery rededication serve as the formal launch of the bicentennial year, which will include programs throughout the Jewish community and Greater Cincinnati, as we celebrate our achievements and contributions to the city and those of other immigrant and minority communities, as well.
I am extremely proud of the amazing work of our committee and board members, who brought this project to fruition and planned the emotional and historic event. The new plaza has information about the early settlers and an official Ohio History Marker. If you were unable to attend the event, the recorded live-stream can be found here.
Jewish Cemeteries has an amazing schedule of programs commemorating the 200th anniversary, including Genealogy seminars, explorations of Jewish and other faith’s burial and mourning customs, tours of our historic cemeteries, and a student Photo/Art Contest. You can sign up to receive more information about those programs here.
Chestnut Street Cemetery is not the only historic cemetery to have benefitted from restoration work this past year. A generous donation from the family of Jacob Stein, past board member and president of United Jewish Cemeteries, allowed for the restoration of the ornate wrought-iron entry gate and fence to our Walnut Hills Cemetery, which is also the location of our office. We are so grateful for their contribution and hope that it will inspire other gifts and restoration projects. Read the article here.
The Walnut Hills Cemetery was founded in 1850, after Chestnut Street Cemetery closed. One of the sad ironies of the rededication occurring this year is that the Chestnut Street Cemetery closed due to the cholera epidemic, the last wave of which was in 1849, while we are today living through the Covid Pandemic. Our board member Marlene Ostrow researched this aspect of the cemetery’s history, which you can read about here.
Research on the early settlers’ monuments and work on the 200th programming has been and will be supported in the year ahead through The Jewish Foundation’s HUC Fellowship program. A reflection from Eliza McCarrol, our 2020-2021 Fellow, who updated translations of the monuments in Chestnut Street and helped prepare the education signage for the plaza, can be found here.
We were assisted by the City of Cincinnati and AmeriCorps coordinator Carrie Rhodus in cleaning the monuments in the cemetery, in preparation for the rededication. You can read the article .
Carrie recently joined our staff in a newly created position of Operations Manager. In addition to overseeing capital projects and the maintenance of our cemeteries – including the preservation of historic monuments – Carrie will also organize volunteer opportunities. Carrie joins our Office Manager, Sarah Strouse, who started with Jewish Cemeteries in January 2020. While Carrie’s role will take her into the field, Sarah will continue her excellent management of daily business, genealogy research requests, and records and data management. Sarah has been leading our launch of new database, which has features to help us better serve the community. Read about the new database and Sarah’s role here.
The full functionality of the database, including genealogies of our dearly departed buried in the cemeteries, will take time and require crowd sourcing information from you, our community members. Together with a new mapping system, whereby you can receive Google Maps directions to specific grave sites, these features will benefit our community members, as well as researchers.
As many of you know, we have been actively working towards marking the graves and honoring all of our veterans. We’ll complete the project this year. Here is an interesting recent article about how Jewish veterans’ graves in military cemeteries can now be marked with a Jewish star.
Stay tuned for much more to come in this Bicentennial year for Jewish Cemeteries and our Cincinnati Jewish community!
In service of our mission,