D. Abrams <dabrams1@...>
About two years ago, my sister and I planned a visit to our grandparents'
graves in the Joseph Held section of Baron Hirsch. No one >from our family
had visited for ages. We had been warned by the office that Joseph Held was
one of the sections that was terribly overgrown (possibly with poison ivy)
and came prepared with gloves, gardening tools and trash bags. It took a
long time to find the two graves because almost all the stones were covered
over and the office could not provide a detailed map. Apparently, the
growth of English ivy and other climbing plants that had been popular
decades ago had been left totally unchecked. In some places they had grown
not only over the stones but attached themselves to low hanging tree
branches, creating a jungle of vines. Eventually, we found our gf's grave
and almost missed our gm's because the stone had toppled off the base. We
filled up about 6 huge trash bags (all that we had brought) just from
clearing a relatively small area. We went again a year later and were
amazed how much had grown back, mainly growth >from adjacent plots.
I think that maintaining neglected graves such as these would be a real
mitzvah. During the High Holiday services, I was delighted to hear our
rabbi indicate an interest in our Long Island, NY congregation taking on
just such a project and asking for volunteers. I don't know if this is his
own idea or part of larger coordinated effort. I will try to speak to him
about it this week and report back to the group if relevant. In any event,
it would be great if other congregations, local JGS chapters and other
groups could provide teams of volunteers, each maybe "adopting" a cemetery
Cutting back vegetation is hard work that needs an annual commitment but I
feel it can be done by amateurs. In some cases, I think herbicides are
needed to permanently get rid of ivies and other undesirables. If so, that
may call for professionals but there's much that amateurs (with the
cemetery's permission) could do.
If you know of a cemetery with neglected graves in your area, think about
asking your JGS chapter, temple or other group to get involved. It would be
a wonderful contribution to preserving family history, even if not your own.
In the meantime, anyone who's interested in forming a Baron Hirsch work
team, count me in or let me know, and I'll try to coordinate.
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