Jewish Cemetery at Former Psychiatric Hospital on New York's Long Island #usa #general

Jan Meisels Allen


A number marks a Jewish grave, left, at the former Central Islip Psychiatric Center on New York's Long Island. A stone at right was added after the hospital began working with a Jewish burial society. (Patricia Desrochers/Touro Law Center)


At New York Long Island’s Central Islip Psychiatric Center there is a cemetery that Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center -part of Touro College  (which opened In 2007)  and the Office of Mental Health agreed to care for the Jewish and non-Jewish portions of the cemetery to assist relatives who believe their loved on is buried there. The  Jewish cemtery has about 500 graves. “The Jewish section had been consecrated in 1980 by Rabbi Melvyn Lerer, the former Jewish chaplain at the psychiatric center. He had raised funds for the cemetery’s restoration, the installation of the gate with the Star of David and the purchase of proper headstones for all future internments, which numbered about 100 until the hospital closed.”


In October 2013, the law school and the state signed their agreement in which the Office of Mental Health agreed to restore the cemetery and help relatives identify ancestors who lie under numbered stones. The project was delayed for a number of years before being revived in 2019.  Then COVID-19 came along and it was no longer a priority. James Plastiras, a spokesman for the Office of Mental Health, said that project is once again under way, and would include a historical marker and paving an existing walkway. Families are free to erect approved markers at the graves of relatives “once direct lineage has been established” through the supervising facilities’ Records Department.


Central Islip Psychiatric Center had been one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the United States. The unacknowledged dead include Holocaust survivors, who twice in their lives were given numbers instead of names.”  Touro Law Center, was built on a portion of the psychiatric hospital’s property after it was closed in 1998. The cemetery is all that remains of the hospital, which was opened in 1889. The cemetery holds the graves of an estimated 5,500 former patients from not only the Central Islip facility, but the Kings Park and Pilgrim State psychiatric hospitals. After the Central Islip hospital closed, the state fenced off the cemetery, restricted public access and provided mowing and cleanup.


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Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee


Richard Stower

The post regarding the cemetery at the Psychiatric Hospital at Slip, NY raises a question for me. My g-grandfather was a patient at Pilgrim State (mentioned in the post). I believe he was admitted by my grandmother for what I guess was dementia (Alzheimer's) in the early 1940s. He died there in1942 and is buried in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Is it possible to find records of deceased patients at NY State hospitals?

Thank you.

Richard Stower
Yarmouth, Maine 

Dobrowa Tarnowską: KANNER, SCHMIDT, WERNER

Shelley Mitchell

What a wonderful undertaking  

For those that cannot be identified by records, I wonder if any DNA can be recovered, despite the prohibition of disturbing the buried dead and the passage of time. If it can, there are large enough pockets of DNA repositories that can be used to compare with. Many of us wouldn’t even know if a family member was alive, let only buried. Hopefully a database of names can readily be established. Are financial contributions sought?  If so, please share the information about how to go about contributing. 

Thank you. 

Shelley Mitchell, NYC 

Rita Geister Liegner

My grandmother's sister was a patient at Pilgrim State from about 1935 to 1973 when she died.  I assume, but don't know for sure, that she is buried on the grounds of this Jewish Cemetery as I have not been able to locate any other grave site for her.   I am very interested in trying to find out if there is a record of her burial but don't see a particular contact person who can help me.  As I am not a direct descendant, I have not been able to get her death certificate which could provide burial information, nor have I been successful due to very strict NYS privacy laws in getting any information from Pilgrim State.  Who can I contact for assistance?  Thanks.

Rita Liegner
Ardsley, New York