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  • Dana Evan Kaplan

Sha’arai Shomayim Cemetery

The religious school recently made a trip to the Sha’arai Shomayim Cemetery to give our students a sense of what a Jewish cemetery is and how the community operates it. Jack F. gave a tour and showed us some of the more interesting and unusual gravestones. Jack gave us a timeline of when German Jewish immigrants came to America. The earliest group arrived in Mobile in the 1820s and the numbers increased dramatically in the 1830s.

In 1841, early Jewish immigrants to Mobile set up a burial society. The society acquired a lot for Jews in the predominantly Catholic Magnolia Cemetery. The lot was named the “Jewish Hebrew Rest.” The first Jewish Reform Congregation in Alabama was formally established in 1844 by about fifty-two families. The first burials in the new cemetery commenced later that year. This pattern was typical of early Jewish communities in America--the burial society was usually created a few years before the synagogue was built. The synagogue was built across the street from the Magnolia Cemetery.

From 1844 to 1876, the Jewish lot in the Magnolia Cemetery was almost completely filled. The Magnolia Cemetery was located across the street from the Temple (where the earliest Jewish settlers were buried). In 1876, the current cemetery was purchased from William and Carol Leinkauf, who were prominent Mobilians. Also in 1876, some of Phyllis F.’s ancestors planted the majestic oak trees that now grace our cemetery. The trees were planted by the first Samuel Brown in our congregation. His son, the first Milton Brown, laid the sidewalks. In turn, his son Samuel Brown II, added the system of pipes and faucets that brought water to the cemetery. The father and grandfather planted all of the live oaks around the cemetery.

On December 28, 1876, Israel I. Jones, who had been president of the congregation for thirty years, became the first person to be buried in the new cemetery.

In 1890, the ornamental fencing and gate were added. The cemetery continues burials today. A new cemetery is on Owens Street. Several large mausoleums dot the cemetery. The mausoleums are only marked by family names, unlike the individually named headstones. The Brown Mausoleum is largest in the cemetery. Our cemetery is as beautiful as it is historic: the cemetery is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The current co-chairmen of the cemetery committee are David R. and Dr. Nate G.

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