Florida: Jacksonville cemetery restored

History has not been kind to Florida’s oldest Jewish cemetery. Read about how one person’s visit a few years ago inspired a major restoration project.

It had been a couple of years since Clare Hogwood visited her relatives’ graves in the Jewish section at Jacksonville’s Old City Cemetery.

The markers were weather-beaten and covered with moss. Some had fallen over.
Shin-high stone walls around the section had become dirty and overgrown,
disappearing from view. “You couldn’t even read some of the stones,” Hogwood said.

She was disgusted and took her concern to her congregation, Ahavath Chesed, which was responsible for the 46-grave plot.

Last week, she returned – this time in a much better mood – as the congregation and the city rededicated the Jewish section of Eastside cemetery with a memorial stone and service.

This was a public-private partnership as the cemetery land had been donated by the city to the Jewish community 152 years ago – in 1857 – during a Yellow Fever epidemic. The congregation funded the restoration.

Read the complete story here and learn about the Jewish history of this community. and the first Jewish cemetery in the state.

Among the first graves are those of the Dzialynski (pronounced da-linsky) family, the first Jews in Jacksonville. In 1881, the city’s only Jewish mayor was Morris Dzialynski. Hogwood’s great-great-great-grandfather was Philip Dzialynski, who died in 1896.

Congregation archivist Hazel Mack said some of the dead served in the Confederate army during the Civil War, but none died in the fighting. The plot fell into disrepair after the last burial in 1935.

Hogwood and other descendants who complained helped spearhead the six-month restoration project, Mack said.

Congregation board member Douglas Oberdorfer said it was a moving experience to finally see the grave of Abraham Zacharias.

“He was my great-great-grandfather,” said Oberdorfer, 37. He had last been to the cemetery as a kid, when both grave and marker were lost in the overgrowth.

“It gives me a sense of connection and reaffirmation with my family, my congregation and Judaism,” he said.

Read the complete article at the link above, and also search Tracing the Tribe for more articles on Florida’s Jewish history, using the search box on the left sidebar.


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