Feb 5, 2009

Mt. Sinai, Consecrated Ground

Jews have been buried in a small section of Fairview Cemetery, called Mt. Sinai, for over 138 years. Although the markings on several stones have worn away, Hannah Dreifuss was buried there in 1868. The September 10th Chronicle in 1875 reported that two members of the Jewish faith, prominent Hamilton Street merchants, Joshua Schnurman and Simon Feldman, purchased a section from Fairview Cemetery and applied for a charter for Mt. Sinai Cemetery,* thus creating the first Jewish Institution in Allentown.
Fairview Cemetery itself was not formally laid-out until 1870, when the renowned architectural firm Lathan of Buffalo was hired to create the premiere resting place in the Lehigh Valley. The giants of Allentown would be buried there, among them Harry Trexler, the Leh's, and the Mack's of truck fame.
The History Lehigh County, published in 1914, notes Mt. Sinai contained 29 graves.** Among them was Julia Wolf, who died in 1907. Her husband Morris served with the local regiment in the Civil War, and lived to be 98 years old. Feldman and Schnurman were among the earliest Jews in Allentown, immigrants from Germany who practiced the modern "Reformed" Judaism. These gentlemen and their extended family members would go on to form the "Young Ladies and Men's Hebrew Society" in 1883***, a predecessor to the Keneseth Israel Congregation organized in 1903. Mt. Sinai remained the resting place for Reformed Jews till 1928, when Keneseth Israel established its own cemetery. Burials continued at Mt. Sinai through the 1940's as spouses and passing family members joined those previously departed in family plots. Today there are 78 graves. In July of 2006, thirty years after the previous burial in 1976, Joseph Levine was laid to rest at the age of 103.

* Chronicle source courtesy of Frank Whelan
** states "people of Hebrew faith" purchased section in 1881
*** Congregation Keneseth Israel 100th Anniversary History

Blogger's Note: Mt. Sinai Cemetery is unaffiliated with any synagogue, and with few exceptions, has been unused for 60 years.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry there arent' more comments on this post, probably since it's noncontroverisal, but I find the history of the cemetery really interesting. Thanx

michael molovinsky said...

the research and documentation of this cemetery is a personal project which predates this blog, i think of this post as a journal entry; no comments needed.

Squirrel said...

Good post.

Interesting information.

Many thanks. Nice to see non controversial posts discussing the history of this city.

Again, thanks.


An Exorcist said...


People of today need to learn the history of the area. Within the Lehigh Valley, mostly in Easton itself, there are more Lebanese than you can shake a stick at. And yet, we have no communal burial plots. We share some with the local Italians. If only we can have the vision that these people had; instead of being forced to make the same repeated errors. Thank you for the post.

Peace be with you, ~~Alex