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Cleveland's Jewish Cemeteries
MAYFIELD CEMETERY

 
 

Mayfield Cemetery - 1887  10,500 burials


 

In 1887, when the trustees of Tifereth Israel bought the land for Mayfield Cemetery, Cleveland's Jews lived between East 9th and East 55th streets. The cemetery was about a mile east of the city limits which were near East 110th Street, and up a steep hill - Mayfield Road. But it was next to 200-acre Lake View Cemetery, the final resting place of Cleveland's elite, and on a state road. They chose well.  MapQuest map.
 

It is owned by United Jewish Cemeteries, which is jointly owned by Cleveland's oldest Reform Congregations: Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple and The Temple - Tifereth Israel.

In this Google Satellite View north is at the top, east at the right. Mayfield Road, which runs east-north-east, is in the lower right. Coventry Road, which runs north-south, is at the right.

A chapel and a building for the office and caretaker were soon constructed. A mausoleum was added in 1930 and enlarged in 1970.

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver's gravesite is in the southwest (lower left) corner, marked on this image by a small gold circle. The grave of Moses Alsbacher is in section 4.

 


from website of United Jewish Cemeteries


In 1887 Tifereth Israel (today The Temple - Tifereth Israel) was on Huron Road and East 6th and their cemetery was only a half acre west of the Cuyahoga River, next to the Anshe Chesed's Willet Street Cemetery. But a trend as old as Cleveland - the better-established residents moving east to newer housing - was accelerating as immigrants poured in to the low cost housing in the old Lower Woodland neighborhoods. Tifereth Israel would soon buy land for a new synagogue on Willson Avenue (East 55th). Looking far ahead, they bought more than 22 acres of land for a cemetery on Mayfield Road, a mile beyond the city's eastern border.

The property was then in East Cleveland Township. (Today it is in the city of Cleveland Heights. The hamlet of Cleveland Heights would be created in 1901, incorporated as a village in 1903, and as a city in 1921.)

We show below a segment of an 1898 map of East Cleveland Township, showing Lake View Cemetery and a "Jewish Cemetery" section, where Mayfield Cemetery is today. The map wrongly suggests that Mayfield Cemetery was a section of Lake View. Mayfield Cemetery's property does abut Lake View and it gives the appearance of being part of Lake View. But from the start, Mayfield Cemetery was always a separate entity.


From an 1898 map of East Cleveland Township  Cleveland Public Library Digital Collection

Three years later Anshe Chesed (today Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple), then on Scovill Avenue at East 25th and often called The Scovill Road Synagogue, joined with Tifereth Israel to form United Jewish Cemeteries to control Mayfield Cemetery and the old Willet Street Cemetery. This joint control continues today.

The land purchases

Almost all the land that today is Mayfield Cemetery was one holding of more than 20 acres. Three transactions were involved:

August 3, 1887
Jacob Mandelbaum buys the 20.649 acre parcel from Sarah and Daniel Doty. The price of $300 an acre seems high for that location, but the size of the property, its location on a state road (now Mayfield Road) and its being adjacent to 200-acre Lake View Cemetery, where Cleveland's leading non-Jewish families are buying plots, made it very desirable.

September 3, 1887
Jacob Mandelbaum and his wife (wives were often included in deeds to resolve any claims of dower right) sold the land to Tifereth Israel for exactly what they had paid.

October 8, 1890
Anshe Chesed and Tifereth Israel, the city's only Reform congregations, had their cemeteries side-by-side on Willet Street on the west side. Now they decide to unite all their cemeteries. In this deed Tifereth Israel conveys a half-interest in Mayfield Cemetery and in their Willet Street cemetery to Anshe Chesed. (We assume that in a separate deed Anshe Chesed gave half-interest in its cemetery on Willet Street to Tifereth Israel.)

The deed mentions no financial consideration. Anshe Chesed may have paid its share by paying half the cost of the land at that time, or by increasing its share of the $22,000 fundraising campaign mentioned in the Plain Dealer story below.
 

See the Mayfield Cemetery deeds.

Improving the new cemetery

The Cleveland Plain Dealer of July 18, 1890 told of the new cemetery and the plans to improve it by erecting a chapel, vault and office for the sexton (caretaker), at a cost of $22,000.

 


We do not know when or how ownership passed to the entity United Jewish Cemeteries.
 

As Mayfield Cemetery was developed, some families reinterred their relatives there from Willet Street Cemetery. One example: Cleveland's first Jewish settler Simpson Thorman.

Simpson Thorman's headstone in Mayfield Cemetery
photo Wendy Lang

In addition to the regular streetcar service up Mayfield Road, for many years a special funeral streetcar would bring mourners and the casket up Mayfield Road to the cemeteries and after the funeral, take the mourners back to town.

 

1928 - Mayfield Cemetery becomes restricted to congregation members

Originally open to all Jews, Mayfield Cemetery would change its rules in 1928. Following a custom often practiced in older congregations in Cleveland and elsewhere, burials would now be limited to members in good standing of these two Reform congregations.

Why this restriction and why in 1928?

In 1890 the two congregations had a total membership of less than 400 families. But the great wave of immigration (1880-1924) would cause Cleveland's Jewish population to soar - from 3,500 in 1880 to 85,000 in 1925. Many new congregations, first Orthodox, then Conservative, would form. Yet for 97 years (1851 - 1947) no new Reform congregations would be started!

With some immigrants and so many of their children joining Reform congregations, by the mid-1920s Silver's (Tifereth Israel) and Brickner's (Anshe Chesed) as many called them - were among the nation's largest, with a combined membership of more than 4,000 families. While in the early years the cemetery would have been seen as more space than they would ever need, by 1928 it is understandable that the congregations would conclude that it was not large enough to accommodate nonmembers. Further, this policy also means that members who resign or do not pay their dues cannot be buried in their old family plots.

Learn more

 

Thanks to Pat Corrigan

This page, with the 1898 map (above) showing Mayfield Cemetery within Lake View Cemetery and finding no deeds in 1887 - 1890 for Tifereth Israel or United Jewish Cemeteries, assumed that Mayfield Cemetery had bought the right to use the section for burials, but did not own the land. Pat Corrigan, the director of Mayfield Cemetery, said we had it wrong; the land was owned by United Jewish Cemeteries and not by Lake View Cemetery. When he furnished the names of the purchasers, we soon found the deeds and corrected our error. Thank you Pat.


 Credits:     Streetcar page: Pat Corrigan
 

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