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Cleveland's Jewish Cemeteries


Willet Street Cemetery          Fir Street Cemetery        Mayfield Cemetery

Willet Street Cemetery - 1840  1,500+ burials   (sometimes spelled Willett)
Cleveland's first Jewish cemetery.

In 1840, months after the Alsbacher party arrived from Unsleben, Bavaria, there were enough Jews here to form a mutual benefit society, the Israelitic Society. They tried to buy a section of the Erie (East 9th) Street Cemetery, near the Jewish community, but were turned down by City Council because a cholera epidemic had left the cemetery with little space.

For $100 they bought an acre of land on the west side of the Cuyahoga River, then Ohio City, from Josiah Barber. Today it is just north of I-90, where Fulton Road (the new name of Willet Street) and Monroe Avenue intersect. The address is 2254 Fulton Road. The phone number (216) 321-1733, is that of Mayfield Cemetery.

More:  view map  view deed  more (ECH) ...

The first burial would be only a month later when the body of a peddler, a Jew from Bavaria named Kanweiler, was brought to Cleveland expecting that his brethren here would look after his remains.

The Israelitic Society soon became Congregation Anshe Chesed. In 1850 many members left and formed Tifereth Israel. That year they bought a 1/2 acre lot next to the Anshe Chesed cemetery, though there would be a fence between the two burial areas.

In those early years both congregations followed Orthodox customs. Burials were open to nonmembers.

The Willet Street Cemetery and Mayfield Cemetery are owned by and maintained by United Jewish Cemeteries, which is owned by The Temple - Tifereth Israel and Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. Though headstones will be found here for burials as late as the 1950s, Willet Street Cemetery is not full. Many families with plots or mausoleums at Mayfield Cemetery have had the graves of their parents and grandparents moved there. Examples: Simpson Thorman and Moses and Yetta Alsbacher.

How did they cross the Cuyahoga River?

They probably used the Columbus Street Bridge, built in 1835. It had a draw section to let vessels pass. It took time and sometimes money to pay tolls to cross the Cuyahoga. That may explain why communities downtown would move east, and those west of the river would move west. In later years many would follow the streetcar lines.

Picture: Columbus Street Bridge in 1837,
looking northeast.



Many marble and limestone headstones of the 1800s have fared poorly; some are unreadable. Here on the near west side, near Cleveland's industrial valley with its steel mills and oil refineries, and a century of using coal for heating and later to generate electric power,

plus the auto emissions from the nearby highways, what we now call "acid rain" has dissolved the surfaces. Granite stones, which began to be used in the 1900s, offer much more resistance to erosion, as can be seen at the newer Mayfield Cemetery.

One or two Ts? Was it Willet or Willett?

Jeffrey Morris, chronicler of our Jewish cemeteries, notes on his page on this cemetery that early maps and deeds spell the name Willett and Willet. The street was renamed Fulton many years ago.


The Cleveland City Council Archives tells us that the street was spelled Willett. We use the shorter spelling used by its owner, United Jewish Cemeteries, and as shown on the sign at the cemetery.

The first burial at Willet Street Cemetery

A Bavarian-born Jewish peddler named Elchasnador Kanweiler was buried here in August 7, 1840, the same day the deed was recorded.


The story of that day, a challenge to our community, and we believe the reason for the name of our first congregation, is told on our page on Kanweiler.

Photos: 1, 2-5 by Nate Arnold, 6-8 by Arnold Berger 3 Google Satellite view

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