GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2002-03 > 1017094015
Subject: [GM-L] Beth Olem Cmty. Detroit, MI
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2002 17:06:55 EST
Found this article today in tThe Detroit Free Press.
For any of yiu who may be tracing Jewish ancestors tothe westward, this might
give some a clue.
It is also interesting to note, in the article, that Detroit paved over it's
graveyards in order to make way for the auto plants!!
Brian Weinstein, 64, of Washington, D.C., shows off a graphite rubbing he
made of a gravestone Sunday at the Beth Olem Cemetery located on the grounds
of General Motors' Poletown plant. He says the grave may belong to his
great-grandfather Isaac Gottlieb.
MOTOR CITY JOURNAL: Hidden cemetery awakens briefly to modern world
Public is welcome for 8 hours a year
March 25, 2002
BY BILL McGRAW
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
To reach one of the most unusual graveyards in Michigan, you first must plan
ahead. It's open only eight hours a year.
Then, because it is located on the grounds of the General Motors Corp.
Poletown plant on the Hamtramck-Detroit border, you have to contact security
to find out how to get in.
After a guard unlocks the heavy gate at the truck entrance, you drive past
loading dock F, a trash-collection area, a test track and a security
Beyond some railroad tracks is Beth Olem Cemetery.
Surrounded by an 8-foot wall and dotted with gnarled old trees, Beth Olem is
a Jewish cemetery that opened during the Civil War and received its last body
just after World War II.
The only remnant of the once-thriving Poletown neighborhood demolished by the
city in the early 1980s to make room for the luxury car factory, Beth Olem
opens for four hours on the Sundays before Passover and Rosh Hashanah.
A handful of visitors showed up Sunday. Some were paying respects to distant
relatives. One was a professional genealogist, doing research for a client in
California. One has an interest in the area's history.
Most of the graves seem to date from the 1880s to World War I. For many of
the people buried in Beth Olem, there is no one left on Earth who would have
been alive when they were alive.
"Fewer and fewer people are going to come -- these are our
great-grandparents," said one visitor, Brian Weinstein. "Their own children
Weinstein, 64, of Washington, D.C., joined his cousin, Dian Wright, 64, of
Lansing and her son, Terry Wright, 41, of Essex, Vt., to visit the graves of
Isaac and Blume Gottlieb. They think they found them, but they could not be
sure, because nearly a century of Michigan weather had obscured the markers.
"It could be our ancestor, and it could be someone else's," Weinstein said.
Isaac Gottlieb, who emigrated from Latvia and wound up in Traverse City, died
in Detroit in 1908 after surgery. Blume Gottlieb died in 1917.
The marker was topped by a crown and contained Hebrew script. Weinstein and
the Wrights did graphite etchings of the faded lettering and participated in
a brief ceremony. They placed the customary stones on top of the grave
markers and recited a selection of Psalm 119.
Then they turned toward other graves and recited a prayer for all the
deceased, which said in part:
"O God, full of compassion, Thou who dwellest on high! Grant perfect rest
beneath the sheltering wings of Thy presence. . . ."
There are 1,400 people buried in Beth Olem, according to Clover Hill Park
Cemetery in Royal Oak, which manages Beth Olem for its owner, Congregation
Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.
Inside the walls of the well-tended grounds, the gravestones form a roll call
of longtime families: Wolf, Goldman, Blumberg, Sable, Cohen, Fisher, Jalan,
Williams. . . .
On one marker, the words are gone, and all that remains is a photograph of a
striking woman, seemingly in her 30s. The photo is protected by a
semicircular, purplish glass. She is wearing a high-collared, pleated blouse;
her dark hair is in a bun.
Next door to this tranquil history loom the tubing and conveyors and
smokestacks of the massive auto plant, which belches steam. A rumbling
locomotive idles in the distance.
To the west is an abandoned, seven-story factory, its windows dirty and
broken. Ring-necked pheasants strut across the plant grounds, and two Canada
geese with foul tempers honked at visitors who approached the cemetery
"This place is one big photo opportunity. The contrast is outstanding," said
another visitor, Paul Tylendea, 26, a Detroiter who studied the neighborhood
for a master's degree from Jagiellonian University in Poland.
Beth Olem is a survivor. In the 19th Century, Detroit simply paved over its
graveyards as the city grew. In 1980, when the city cleared 3,438 residents
and tore down more than 1,300 homes, factories and institutions for the
plant, officials worked out the plan to preserve the graves and open the
cemetery twice a year.
"This place is awesome," said Deborah Wright, 51, of Royal Oak, who was
visiting the grave of her great-great grandmother, Asna Applebaum, who died
in 1907. "It's like stepping back into time."
Contact BILL McGRAW at 313-223-4781 or .