By Stan Kaplan, Executive Director,
Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts
"Good morning again. We are gathered here today to pay tribute to this sacred burial ground, the 2nd oldest Jewish cemetery in Massachusetts founded in 1851. For the better part of 100 years, this sanctuary had become forgotten space with no burials. With no burials, with virtually no visitors, with no one knowing the cemetery’s original name, with no one knowing who was resting here, it became an uninviting eyesore, and soon a vast and disturbing disconnect had blinded the community. Paralysis set in.
"For years, it was known as the Lebanon Street Cemetery or the Maplewood Cemetery named after its location. But after extensive research, we now know its original name: “The Hebrew Charitable Burial Ground.”
The Hebrew Charitable Burial Ground is the final resting place for more than 1400 decedents, mostly children 5 years of age and under, most without markers to tell us who they are or to tell us where they rest. They are truly the forgotten children of Boston’s indigent immigrant Jewish community who suffered from malnutrition and poverty and who could not afford the cost of a burial site.
"Childhood diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, mumps, flu, whooping cough, polio, rubella, tetanus, and scarlet fever proved fatal for many of these forgotten children.
"But we now know who many of them are, we now know their names, we now know how old they were when they succumbed, and we even know what City or Town they lived in.
"We know that Sarah Seaman was the first child to rest at The Hebrew Charitable Burial Ground. Sarah was born in 1852 to Herman and Rachel Seaman of Boston. Interestingly, both parents were born in Holland. Sarah died at home at 17 Rochester Street on July 9, 1852 of “murasmus,” or severe malnutrition. She was only two years and 15 days old. We don’t know where she is resting on the cemetery.
"We know that Isaac Ehrenreich was the second child to rest at The Hebrew Charitable Burial Ground. Isaac was born in Boston in 1854 to Maier and Mariana Ehrenreich, both of whom immigrated from Germany. Isaac died on April 16, 1855 of “convulsions” at the age of one year, two months. At the time of Isaac’s death the family lived on Carver Street just south of Boston Common.
"Lastly, Hannah Weil, born in Boston in 1873 to Isaac and Rosetta Weil. Her parents originated from Prussia. Hannah died on May 28,1874 of eclampsia (convulsions) at the age of one year, three months. For a number of years the family lived on Fayette Street in the area now known as Bay Village between the South End and Chinatown. We don’t know where she is resting on the cemetery.
"Each child has a story to tell, one as fatally tragic as the other.
"A little more than a year ago, Malden’s own Barbara Tolstrup from Malden Access TV and a Board member of Malden’s Historical Commission, embarked on a mission to tell the story of this historic cemetery.” After viewing the resulting video, my eyes suddenly opened. What I saw was a rundown, undignified resting place that JCAM had pledged to preserve! It was that documentary that thrust JCAM into action. We had been complacent for far too long. The restoration, the dignified renewal you see here today is a result of that awakening! Thank you Barbara Tolstrup and Malden Access TV."
"So this is both a story of charity and a story of redemption. By paying tribute to those who came before us, we dignify our lives too. They are a part of us, we are a part of them…and so the covenant passes from generation to generation. Being here today reflects on that Jewish tradition dating back to biblical times.
"The Hebrew Charitable Burial Ground is forgotten no more! As a symbolic symbol of this remembrance, a member of Temple Tifereth Israel of Malden has collected 1400 visitation memorial stones in honor of the 1400 children resting here. We welcome you to leave a visitation stone on any memorial brick or monument in the cemetery. These stones are available at the entrance of the cemetery.
"In closing, please permit me thank several other instrumental City officials who were so helpful to us in planning for this event. Malden Police Chief Kevin Molis, Malden Police Captain Kevin Sheridan, Malden Department of Public Works Director Bob Knox, and Administrative Officer to the Mayor, Kathleen Manning-Hall.
We really appreciate your courteous and professional support."
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