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HEBREW CEMETERY

Hebrew Cemetery, operated by the Hebrew Cemetery Company, has played an important role in the history of Beth Ahabah and its predecessor congregation, K.K. Beth Shalome. It is located on Shockoe Hill at Fourth and Hospital Streets, a site that was chosen in 1816 after the first cemetery of K. K. Beth Shalome, located on Franklin Street, was filled. The Franklin Street Burial Grounds, founded in 1791, was the first Jewish cemetery in Virginia and continues to be maintained by the Hebrew Cemetery Company. Hebrew Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register in 2006.

The cemetery gates are open Sunday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by arrangement with the Temple office. A security guard also is present on the first and third Sundays of each month from noon until 3:00 p.m.

Call the Beth Ahabah Museum & Archives at 804-353-2668 for information about historical tours.

Jewish Guide to Funeral and Mourning Customs

The first to be interred at Hebrew Cemetery was Benjamin Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe, a merchant and one of the founding fathers of K.K. Beth Shalome, was chairman of the committee formed in 1816 to acquire a new cemetery for the congregation. He also was a member of Richmond Common Hall (the town council), and this position allowed him to lobby for the cemetery. After arrangements for the cemetery were completed, it is told that Mr. Wolfe laughingly remarked that the Congregation’s president should be the first person interred in the new grounds. The president responded with a biblical passage to the effect that he who dug a pit should be the first to fall into it.

Other persons whose gravesites may be found in the cemetery include the leaders of the congregations, rabbis and many of the leaders of the business and social communities of Richmond.During the first one hundred years of its history, Hebrew Cemetery was filled with a number of elaborate memorials to the deceased. Chest and table tombs, cradle graves and rustic tree monuments are found among the tall obelisks, broken columns and draped urns. Jewish symbols such as the Star of David and the hands positioned for the priestly blessing of the Kohanim are found on the gravestones, but there are also many symbols shared with the larger community, such as the weeping willow tree, lambs, doves and flowers.

Help us maintain our historic cemetery by making a contribution. It is greatly appreciated.

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CONFEDERATE SECTION

The Soldiers’ Section of Hebrew Cemetery is the only Jewish military cemetery in the United States, and one of the few outside of Israel. Thirty Jewish Confederate soldiers were buried in a self-contained section during the course of the Civil War. Shortly after the war, the Hebrew Ladies’ Memorial Association took over care of the graves, erecting grave markers, holding memorial services and erecting an ornamental iron fence depicting muskets, crossed swords and sabers – with a flat Confederate soldier’s cap adorning the top of the fence posts. In the 1950s, the decaying tombstones were removed and replaced with a bronze plaque listing the names of the soldiers affixed to a large granite stone.

HISTORY OF CONFEDERATE SECTION

This plot contains the graves of 30 Jewish Confederate soldiers who died in or near Richmond. In 1866, the Hebrew Ladies’ Memorial Association was formed to care for this section. This organization paid for individual grave markers for the soldiers, commissioned an elaborate ornamental iron fence to surround the plot and sponsored commemorative services for the soldiers. The HLMA gave the care of the plot over to the Hebrew Cemetery Company in the 1930s.

The fence was designed by Richmond artist Major William Barksdale Myers prior to 1873. The individual grave markers were removed during the 1950s and a central granite marker was erected in their place. Today the section, like the rest of the cemetery, is maintained by the Hebrew Cemetery Company.

In 1963 a correction was made to the bronze plaque regarding the name of one of the soldiers. Henry Gintzberger, a German immigrant, enlisted in the Salem Flying Artillery at the beginning of the Civil War and was killed at Cold Harbor in 1864. His name was mistakenly reported to be Gersberg and he was buried in the Soldiers’ Section under that name. Richmond historian J. Ambler Johnston, whose father served with Gintzberger, correctly identified this long-dead soldier after more than 20 years of research. In a ceremony during the Civil War Centennial, Gintzberger’s name was added to the plaque. The soldier, who fought under Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville and was wounded at Gettysburg, now rests under his own name.

The Hebrew Cemetery is centrally located in Richmond’s historic Fan District. Parking is readily available in the deck that Congregation Beth Ahabah shares with St. James’s Episcopal Church, located directly across from the Temple campus.

From the Temple: Continue east on West Franklin Street. Cross over Belvidere Street (Rt. 1). Continue several blocks and turn left on N. Adams Street. After several blocks, take a right on W. Leigh Street.  Turn left on N. 3rd Street, and continue on it as it changes into N. 5th Street.  Take a left onto Hospital Street, and Hebrew Cemetery will be on your right.

From Downtown: From Main Street or Broad Street, head north on N. Adams Street. After several blocks, take a right on W. Leigh Street.  Turn left on N. 3rd Street, and continue on it as it changes into N. 5th Street.  Take a left onto Hospital Street, and Hebrew Cemetery will be on your right.

From the West: Take I-64 East. I-64 East will merge with I-95 South. Take the 3rd Street exit. From 3rd Street turn left at the next intersection onto Jackson Street. Travel 1 block on Jackson to 4th Street and turn left. Continue on 4th Street underneath I-64/I-95.Turn left at the light onto Hospital Street. The older section of Hebrew Cemetery will be on your immediate right, the newer section on your left.

From the North: Take I-95 South. I-95 South will merge with I-64 East. Take the 3rd Street exit. From 3rd Street turn left at the next intersection onto Jackson Street. Travel 1 block on Jackson to 4th Street and turn left. Continue on 4th Street underneath I-64/I-95.Turn left at the light onto Hospital Street. The older section of Hebrew Cemetery will be on your immediate right, the newer section on your left.

From the East: Take I-64 West toward Downtown Richmond. As you reach Downtown Richmond take the 5th Street exit. Proceed south on 5th one block to Jackson Street and turn right. Take the next right onto 4th Street. Continue on 4th Street underneath I-64/I-95.Turn left at the light onto Hospital Street. The older section of Hebrew Cemetery will be on your immediate right, the newer section on your left.

From the South: Take the Powhite Parkway north. After crossing the James River continue on I-195 North. Take I-64 East. Take the 3rd Street exit. From 3rd Street turn left at the next intersection onto Jackson Street. Travel 1 block on Jackson to 4th Street and turn left. Continue on 4th Street underneath I-64/I-95.Turn left at the light onto Hospital Street. The older section of Hebrew Cemetery will be on your immediate right, the newer section on your left.

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CEMETERY DATABASE:
BURIAL RECORDS OF JEWISH CEMETERIES IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA

This database – made possible in part by a grant from the Genesis Fund of the Richmond Jewish Foundation, is based on information provided by area congregations and cemetery managers, and is as accurate as the data they have recorded over the years. Our hope is that our database will, at least, be useful in providing clues that will open additional doors ingenealogical research. If ‘Yes’ appears in the last column of the data on an individual, it indicates that there is additional information in the Beth Ahabah Museum & Archives. All information in the database is the exclusive property of the Museum & Archives and the providing organizations, and may not be reproduced in any form without express written permission.

Contact the Beth Ahabah Museum & Archives via email
or call us at (804) 353-2668 for further information.

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Tue, February 20 2018 5 Adar 5778