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Joseph Street Cemetery

Since early 1850, even before the new congregation,  Sha’aray Tefilev - or Gates of Prayer - was officially recognized, the Joseph Street has served our congregation. At the time the land was purchased in a Sheriff's sale, the land was located in the Hurstville neighborhood of Lafayette City, an upriver neighbor of New Orleans in what was then part of Jefferson Parish. The property is, today, a complete city block — 20 lots surrounded by Arabella Street, Joseph Street, Pitt Street, and Garfield Street. And so began what was then the 3rd Jewish cemetery in New Orleans, and remains today, as an active cemetery and the second oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the city.

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Joseph Street Main Entrance.

 

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(Above) A square of land in the Hurstville neighborhood of Lafayette City in Jefferson Parish was acquired on January 12, 1850 by “The Hebrew Congregation” for use as a cemetery by the new congregation.  The property was being sold “by virtue of a writ of seizure” by Sheriff Valmont Soniat Dufossat.

 

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(Above) This historical marker, found at Jefferson Avenue and Magazine Street, only five blocks from the cemetery, notes that the area was part of Jefferson Parish at the time the cemetery was acquired in 1850.

 

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(Above) From the corner of Joseph St and Garfield, and taken before 2015, one can see the Medauer House in the Joseph St Cemetery. It was replaced with the Plotkin Pavilion in 2015.

 

 

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(Above) Plaque in the new Plotkin Pavilion that memorializes the original Medauer House which stood in this location for over a century, until 2015.

 

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(Above) Main entrance and Plotkin Pavilion of the Joseph Street Cemetery.  

 

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(Above) Plaque in honor of the 2015 dedication of the new Plotkin Pavilion.

 

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(Above) One can see into the Joseph Street cemetery in this 1950 photo, as it looks through the Medauer House; and the same view again, taken in 2021, through the Plotkin Pavilion.

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Memorial Area of the Joseph Street Cemetery

The next several images are from the Memorial Area of the Joseph Street cemetery, created in the early 1980s to add capacity for future burials of the congregation.

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(3 images, above) The Joseph St Cemetery contains some of the oldest Jewish headstones in the city. These are amongst dozens moved in the early 1980s from the original graves to where they currently stand within the Joseph Street Cemetery, near their original “Section B” location.  This was part of the re-dedication of an old part of the cemetery, which was undertaken with the permission of the Rabbinic Council of the city, and created an area for contemporary and continued use, known as “The Memorial Area.”

 

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(Above) Old headstones where they currently stand following relocation from their original sites in “Section B” with the re-dedication of “The Memorial Area” on Joseph Street

 

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(Above) This memorial plaque marks the 1983 creation of the Memorial Area. It rests in the Joseph St Cemetery in Section B, Row 1, plot 14 - the first row of the Memorial Area.

 

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The Memorial Section was dedicated in 1853 and has been the part of the cemetery most actively used since that time.

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Touro Infirmary Cemetery, within the Joseph Street Cemetery

In the mid 1880s, Touro Infirmary made arrangements with Gates of Prayer to use the southern most lot of the Joseph St Cemetery, along Pitt Street, largely for Jewish indigent burials.  Knowledge of the arrangement between Gates of Prayer and Touro Infirmary for Touro’s use of, and its responsibility for, this section of Joseph Street Cemetery had been lost from the collective and institutional knowledge of the current congregational members and leadership, until the history of the Touro Infirmary Cemetery, researched and written by Dr. Florence Jumonville, then Touro’s Archivist, surfaced in 2020. Many headstones and markers are missing, broken or in poor repair, along with large empty spots where numbered markers of charitable interments likely once rested. More information about this recently rediscovered and fascinating chapter of our history will be found in the full History of Joseph Street page.  The next several images are from that section.

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Marker 118 is one of the few remaining numbered markers in the Touro Infirmary section. These simple numbered stones were all that marked the majority of the 155 graves, which were predominantly indigents, buried in the Touro Infirmary Section between 1888 and 1908. Although Touro records identify 117 of the individuals, the exact location of most of the graves is no longer known.

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This is one of the few intact and identifiable headstones in the Touro Section, presumably not an indigent burial.

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Images from the Touro Infirmary Section of Joseph Street Cemetery, along Pitt Street.  Many headstones and markers are missing, broken or in poor repair, along with large empty spots where numbered markers of charitable interments likely once rested.

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Not all burials in the Touro section between 1888 and 1908 were charitable interments, as a handful of named headstones, such as the grave of Levi Ehrenfeld who died in October 1898, remain from the period.

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Rabbis buried in the Joseph Street Cemetery

Three Rabbis who served Gates of Prayer over the years are buried at Joseph Street.  The graves of Rabbi Sessler, Silber and Share are shown below. 

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(Above 3 images) Several of the Rabbis which served Congregation Gates of Prayer are buried in the “Honors Row” section of Joseph Street.

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Images from across the Joseph Street Cemetery

With the cemetery spanning 175 years, it contains a variety of grave and inscriptions styles. Below are shots from various sections of the cemetery   

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(Above) One of several small sections for babies and young children, necessitated by the unfortunately frequent mortality of children in the 19th and early 20th century. 

 

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(Above) Joseph Street, Section "A".

 

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(Above) Joseph Street, Section "B".

 

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(Above) Joseph Street, Section "B".

 

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(Above) Joseph Street, Section "D".

 

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(Above) Joseph Street, Section "E".

 

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(Above) Joseph Street, Section "F".

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Ledger Books

For most of the congregation's history, deaths and burials were faithfully entered by hand in ledger books, like those in the images below.  They remain an important reference resource as well as a repository of rich Jewish New Orleans history.

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Ledger books, such as these, date back to the Congregation’s origins and were used to record deaths and burials. Deaths were recorded chronologically in one section and alphabetically by last name in another.

 

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The original “Death Book” for Gates of Prayer, recording deaths and burials at the Joseph Street Cemetery from 1853 to 1980. It is now held in the Special Collections at Tulane University Library.

 

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Opening pages of the Death Book for Joseph Street, with “Rules and Regulations of Burial Grounds” and initial chronological burial entries, starting in 1853. It is believed that some unrecorded burials may have occurred soon after the land was purchased in 1850, although the first documented burial was 3 years later.

 

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Subsequent page of chronological burial entries which took place in 1866 to 1868 at Joseph Street.

 

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A sample page of burials done between from 1861-1924 at Joseph Street of individuals whose last name begins with an “A”.

 

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Canal Street

The main entrance of the Canal Street Cemetery opens into the section originally acquired by Tememe Derech starting in 1858, and gifted to Gates of Prayer in 1939. Though usually referred to as The Canal Street Cemetery, it is in fact 3 cemeteries, or at least has three current owners. The gate, seen below and reflecting one of the owners of cemetery, Chevra Thilim Cemetery Association, was originally located along the side street (formerly South Anthony St, but known today as Botinelli Place) where one would have entered into the Chevra Thilim section along S. Anthony.  It was moved to its present location in the mid 20th century, and, ironically, opens into the Gates of Prayer section.

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Survey of the Canal Street Cemetery

The Canal Street Cemetery has had various owners over the century and one half of its existence. In part due to that, exact borders of the sections of today's 3 owners (Congregation Gates of Prayer, Chevra Thilim Cemetery Association, and Congregation Beth Israel) was not known with certainty.  A survey was done in 2021 which has helped to delineate those sections.  

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Recent survey of the Canal Street Cemetery, showing sections owned and maintained by Gates of Prayer (GOP), Beth Israel(BI) and Chevra Thilim Cemetery Association (CT).

 

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This survey done as part of a 1876 transaction by Temme Derech to acquire the remainder of lot 3 along Canal Street, stands in contrast to the modern survey above. Tememe Derech obtained the adjacent lots (through lot 9) earlier, in 1858, and would acquire lot 10 some years later in 1906. Lots 1 and 2, those closest to S Bernadotte, are labeled with the name of the owner, Mrs. Mary Slattery, are the site of the Mortuary building.  It remains to date at that location, although it is a entertainment venue now, and has not been an actual mortuary for many years.

Old Memorial Plaques

These stone plaques presumably were removed from the walls of a Medauer House which is known to have stood, perhaps starting in the late 1800s and into the mid 20th century, at the Canal Street entrance (ie the  Gates of Prayer section) of the cemetery. It is not known when the structure was taken down. The plaques were placed into concrete near the site of the Medauer House and have undergone unfortunate deterioration over the years.

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(Above) Commemorates the donation of the Canal Street fronting section of the cemetery to Gates of Prayer by Tememe Derech on August 7, 1939.

 

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(Above) Commemorates the donation of the South Bernadotte Street section to Gates of Prayer by Chevra Mikveh Israel on May 81, 1950.

 

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(Above) Memorial Plaque and Plot Locator, for Gates of Prayer burials after 1950, Bernadotte St section.

 

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(Above) Memorial Plaque and Plot Locator #1, for Gates of Prayer burials, after 1939, Tememe Derech section.

 

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(Above) Memorial Plaque and Plot Locator #2, for Gates of Prayer burials, after 1939, Tememe Derech section.

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Main Entrance of the Canal Street Cemetery, the Tememe Derech Section

The lots along Canal Street comprise the part of the cemetery originally acquired and operated by a small orthodox synagogue called Tememe Derech. The congregation ceased to exist in 1904 when several small orthdox congregations merged to form Beth Israel. However, the cemetery was maintained by a cemetery organization formed by Tememe Derech until 1939. That year, Gates of Prayer accepted the cemetery as a charitable gift from the Tememe Derech Cemetery Association, which ceased to exist, and agreed to continue to maintain it.

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Near entrance on Canal Street, in Tememe Derech portion. 

 

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Section C, Tememe Derech section.

 

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Section C, Rows 4 and 5, Tememe Derech section.

 

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Old grave in Section B, Tememe Derech section.

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Found in Section E of the Tememe Derech section, this is the grave of Elizabeth Magnus Cohen, MD, an English born woman who immigrated to the US in 1827, attended Penn Medical College and graduated 5th in her class in 1857. She then came to Louisiana that year with her husband, Dr. Aaron Cohen, becoming the 14th physician and the first woman to practice medicine in the State. She died at age 101 after a life of service.

 

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The grave of Henry Clay Cohen, the youngest child of Drs Aaron and Elizabeth Magnus Cohen, who died in 1886.  It is found in Section D, Row 3 of the Tememe Derech portion of the cemetery.

 

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 1892 grave, in section E, Row 9, Tememe Derech area.

 

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1893 grave, in section E, Row 9, Tememe Derech area.

 

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Taken from the Canal Street side, Tememe Derech section, looking through towards the Chevra Thilim and Beth Israel sections of the cemetery.

Yellow Fever Memorial, Graves 

The Tememe Derech Cemetery was acquired around the time that yellow fever was rampant in New Orleans, including the 1867 Yellow Fever epidemic.  It is known to have been the resting site for many of its victims. While the names and locations are not known for many, we believe that anonymous graves easily seen today and indicated with a plain numbered stone marker, are sites of these unfortunate.

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This monument was erected by the board of the Tememe Derech Cemetery Association in 1932 to memorialize the victims of the 1867 Yellow Fever epidemic.  Many of those who died are buried presumably near by now-covered anonymous graves, evident with a plain numbered marker.

 

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A view of numerous anonymous graves believed to be those of the 1868 yellow fever epidemic victims, and marked by a plain numbered stones. To the left of the image, the pink granite memorial monument can be seen, with Canal Street in the rear of the picture.

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S Bernadotte St Cemetery of Chevra Mikveh Israel

Originally, these two lots facing the side street, South Bernadotte, were a separate cemetery purchased and founded in 1865 by a small orthodox congregation called Chevra Mikveh Israel.  On May 8, 1950, Gates of Prayer accepted the donation of the Bernadotte Street cemetery from Chevra Mikveh Israel, which was serendipitously contiguous with its 1939 acquisition from Tememe Derech. Like that section, Gates of Prayer has maintained and operated it since.

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The South Bernadotte Street entrance of the Canal Street Cemetery, in the Chevra Mikveh Israel section. The rear of "The Mortuary" is seen at the far right

 

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The South Bernadotte Street side of the Canal Street Cemetery, originally a separate cemetery owned by a small orthodox congregation, Chevra Mikveh Israel and gifted to Gates of Prayer in 1950.

 

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Sections A and B of the South Bernadotte Street, or Chevra Mikveh Israel, section of the cemetery.

 

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Section A the South Bernadotte Street or Chevra Mikveh Israel section of the cemetery.

 

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Sat, October 1 2022 6 Tishrei 5783