Baron Hirsch Cemetery
The Cemetery was established in 1899.
In January, 1960, the cemetery drew national attention when 87 headstones were found with yellow paint used to write “Fuhrer,” and the German words for death and fatherland on gravestones bearing such Jewish symbols as the star of David. The incident and others led President Dwight D. Eisenhower to declare that freedom and decency could be destroyed everywhere if Americans ignored the “virus of bigotry” or permitted it “to spread one inch.
Nevertheless, continued vandalism, as well as apathy and neglect have remained problmes at Baron Hirsch for decades, resulting in numerous overturned grave markers.
The cemetery is composed of about 500 plot or sections belonging to synagogues, Jewish associations, family circles, and most commonly, landsmanshaftn. Most plots are entered via gates or pairs of stone columns. Some of the landsmanshaftn have monuments dedicated to Holocaust victims of the Nazis in their ancestral town.
- Samuel Irving Newhouse, Sr. (1895–1979), newspaper publisher, founder of Advance Publications; and other members of the Newhouse publishing family.
- Joseph Papp (1921–1991) – theater producer, theater director, and founder of The Public Theater
- William Shemin (1896–1973) – Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient
- Elliot Willensky (1943–2010) – composer, lyricist, and music producer
Samuel Irving Newhouse Sr Memorial
Monument to the Martyrs of the 1942 Polish Jews
Walking in Baron Herzog Cemetery was walking through the history of the Jewish People. The majority of the cemetery is overgrown with heavy undergrowth weeds bushes and trees as well as trash. Many headstones are overturned and gates are missing from the landsmanshaftn, from vandalism and theft. There are three mausoleums in the Cemetery, two on Richmond Avenue which are in respectful condition. The Mausoleum in the back of the cemetery has been completely gutted by thieves. The Monument to the Martyrs of the 1942 Polish Jews made me cry. It is our duty to restore this treasure of the Jewish People in Staten Island and around the world. To give them the respect and dignity they deserve. I strongly all readers of this to contact all Elected Officials all aver the world to right this injustice to our Jewish Brothers & Sisters. You would do the same for one of you beloved departed family members.
לעולם לא עוד
Article courtesy of The Staten Island Advance
Apathy, neglect and vines overtake Staten Island cemetery
August 18, 2012
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Baron Hirsch Cemetery, one of New York’s oldest and most historically rich Jewish resting places, dating back over 125 years, is showing its age and supporters say it needs a lift from Staten Islanders.
A recent visit by an Advance reporter and photographer found leaning and toppled headstones, overgrown trees and foliage so thick it obscured graves and signs warning of poison ivy.
Gary Gotlin, public administrator for Richmond County, takes it to heart when he visits the cemetery and sees graves in disrepair.
“On a personal level, I find it devastating,” said Gotlin, who has grandparents and other relatives buried at Baron Hirsch.
“It makes me feel that they are not being respected. I get a feeling if they were alive that they would feel that nobody cares.”
Andrew Schultz, executive director of the Community Association for Jewish At-Risk Cemeteries (CAJAC), and Barbara Loring, president of the board of the cemetery, will discuss current conditions at the 80-acre Graniteville site and planned improvements at a meeting scheduled for Sunday morning at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in West Brighton. Members of all Staten Island synagogues and burial societies are invited to attend.
The cemetery, which is the final resting place for many Holocaust survivors, is in the process of an overhaul with a goal of completion by the end of 2014, Ms. Loring said.
More money and volunteers are required to not only finish the job but to ensure that the cemetery doesn’t return to the condition it was in when the major cleanup began in March 2011.
Care is very expensive at Baron Hirsch because the closeness of the graves requires that everything be done by hand with hedge trimmers and weed-whackers. Many Jews, Ms. Loring said, like the rustic appearance of the cemetery, and some families decided to lay their headstones down for various reasons.
“We are not broke, we are not going out of business,” Ms. Loring stressed, but she acknowledged, “We are trying to clean up almost ancient history.”
The cemetery once was supported by about 550 burial societies, which sold grave sites in their allotted areas, she said. The majority of those societies now “are defunct because their members died out and the younger generation wants no part of it.”
Plots sold in recent years have required care payments for graves if the family wants to have plants, shrubs or anything other than grass.
However, over 90 percent of the graves at the cemetery have no provisions for “perpetual care,” which means long-term maintenance. Years ago, perpetual care wasn’t an option at Baron Hirsch, but families often voluntarily paid annually for care. Now many descendants have stopped covering the cost because they never knew the person who died generations ago, Ms. Loring said. And money from the endowment fund cannot be used for care.
Ms. Loring urged families to step up and pay for maintenance of their ancestors’ graves.
“You’d be surprised how many people don’t think they have a responsibility to do that,” Ms. Loring said. “The Jewish tradition is to care for the dead.”
Fundraising is difficult, she added. Temples are strapped for cash, and businesses and many politicians don’t see any potential return on their investment.
“When you go to meetings, dead people don’t vote, so you can’t get money,” Ms. Loring said.
The money woes at Baron Hirsch aren’t exclusive to Jewish cemeteries, Gotlin noted, adding that he faced similar fundraising challenges when he was president of Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries.
City Councilman James Oddo has pledged $3,500 in Council money this year to the CAJAC for use in the cleanup at Baron Hirsch. Oddo toured the cemetery last fall with Gotlin and said it was “very moving” to see graves that used to be visited and tended by family members — as evidenced by the placement of small stones — now overtaken by weeds.
“This is history, it’s not just people buried there,” Oddo said.
“I hope this is the impetus to encourage other Staten Islanders and New Yorkers to return to Baron Hirsch and help in paying that respect to our ancestors and helping this cause to ensure that graves are in good repair.”
A growing number of older Jewish cemeteries are experiencing financial and/or physical decline, Schultz said. Grave sales and other forms of revenue are declining as “an alarming number of Jews” are opting for cremation, while others are choosing to be buried in newer and larger Jewish cemeteries and non-sectarian cemeteries.
Sign-up sheets for volunteers to help with clean-ups at Baron Hirsch Cemetery will be available at the meeting. To RSVP or for information, contact Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-357-4198.