Jewish cemetery in Woodland Park gets makeover after years of neglect – NorthJersey.com

Posted By on May 23, 2021

Friday in Passaic Jewish people partake in the burning of the chametz, a pre-Passover tradition. Last year the event was called off due to COVID-19. NorthJersey.com

WOODLAND PARK The Silk City Benevolent Association Cemetery is one of several Jewish graveyards along McBride Avenue in this small Passaic County township.

With gravestones that date back to before1915, this burial site isa reminder that Woodland Park was previouslyWest Paterson, andthatneighboringPaterson was home to a sizable Jewish populationthat reached 40,000 at its peak.

The decline in thelocal Jewish population has been reflected in the decline of the cemetery. But on Sunday, it came back to life with a rededication ceremony showing off a refurbished burial ground.

The Cemetery Association, which was formed as the Cemetery Association of the Jewish Federation in the 1950s, raised money to clean up the site, which was once operated by an organization that went out of business in the 1990s, according to Mickey Levine, the executive vice president of the association.

"It was done with a purpose, because it was a cemetery in serious disrepair," Levine said. "The Cemetery Association was able to raise enough money to take it over and make the repairs."

A rededication ceremony was held at the Silk City Benevolent Association Cemetery in Woodland Park on May 16 to recognize the cleanup of this burial ground.(Photo: Mickey Levine)

Levine said the renovating of the Silk Citycemetery consisted of work including tending to downed gravestones and sunken grave bedsandremoving tree stumps sitting in the middle of graves, which took about two years.

Levine said the ceremony consisted of speeches from attendees and prayersand was held on the first day of the Jewish holiday ofShavuot, which commemorates God's giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, and wasentirely appropriate for the day.

"In fact, in the Torah and in the Commandments, it talks about taking care of the dead," Levine said.

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The timing of the rededication ceremonywas also notable for another reason: It came after the discovery onThursday that 10 headstones had been turned over and graffiti left on three headstones in three of the Jewish cemeteries the association tends to. Police have determined that while it wasintentional vandalism by minors, it was not abias or hate crime, sinceno anti-Semitic words or pictures were drawn.

"That didn't deter us from having this ceremony," Levine said. "I just think vandalism on any cemetery is horrendous."

Tombstones knocked over in an act of vandalism(Photo: Mickey Levine)

He said the association is responsible now for the upkeep of four of six Jewish cemeteries that are in close proximity:Silk City Benevolent Association Cemetery, the United Jersey Independent Verrein, the Nathan and Miriam Barnet Cemetery, andthe Passaic County Club Cemetery. The other two areIndependent Lodzier Young Men Cemetery andWater Street Shul.

The association is responsible for maintaining a total of17 Jewish cemeteries in Bergen and Passaic counties.

RicardoKaulessaris a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community,please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email:kaulessar@northjersey.com

Twitter:@ricardokaul

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Jewish cemetery in Woodland Park gets makeover after years of neglect - NorthJersey.com

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