A historic 200-year old Jewish cemetery near downtown Cincinnati, Ohio is getting a renovation in time for the city’s Jewish bicentennial.
The Chestnut Street Cemetery’s opening in 1821 is considered the official beginning of the Cincinnati Jewish community. That year a man named Benjamin Leib contacted the then-town’s small Jewish community and asked to be laid to rest in a Jewish grave.
At least 85 community members are buried in the cemetery.
"We are doing some improvements to the existing infrastructure, including restoring the brick wall, replacing the chain-link fence with a steel fence in the wrought-iron fashion that will match the existing gate, and then we are doing work restoring the monuments – mostly just cleaning them," David Harris, executive director of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati, told WVXU.
A tree and overgrown bushes have also been removed so that a plaza educating visitors about the history of the cemetery can be installed.
"It will have signage talking about the early Jewish settlers who founded the cemetery… as well as information about the community in general," Harris said.
"We do hope this becomes a destination for school groups and others interested in the history of Cincinnati. The Jewish community has been here for 200 years and has played a significant role in the development of the city in addition to the accomplishments of the Jewish community itself.”
There will also be a new Ohio Historical Marker. The Ohio Historical Markers program began in 1950. It encompasses 1,800 unique markers that tell the state's history as explained by its communities.
The Chestnut Street Cemetery closed in 1849 after a cholera epidemic. Harris explained that a researcher translating headstones during the recent work discovered that many of them referenced the deceased having died “in the hour of the plague.”
A re-dedication ceremony for the cemetery will take place on September 26 and will launch the festivities for the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial celebration.