Our story begins in 1847
In order to get a clear understanding of the history of the New Mt. Sinai Cemetery, it is necessary to review the situation as it existed some years prior to its organization. In the year 1847, and some years prior, there were two Reform Jewish Congregations in the City of St. Louis, namely Emanu El Congregation (sometimes spelled Imanu El) and B'nai Brith Society.
Each of these congregations purchased separate burial grounds. Emanu El Congregation purchased its burial ground on the south side of Cooper Street, just west of Pratte Avenue. (Pratte Avenue is now Jefferson Avenue and Cooper Street has become a part of the railroad yards in the Mill Creek Valley.) The B'nai Brith Society purchased its burial ground, a one-acre tract, on Gravois Road, which is now a part of the New Mt. Sinai Cemetery.
It appears that, primarily due to the cholera epidemic and the resultant loss of members, the two Congregations merged in October 1852 and formed a new Congregation in the name of B'nai El Congregation.
Growing & Flourishing
In 1869, Congregation Shaare Emeth, also a Reform Jewish Congregation, was organized, with its place of worship at 17th and Pine Streets. Shaare Emeth's present place of worship is on Ladue Road at Ballas Road in St. Louis County. Later in 1869, B'nai El Congregation and Shaare Emeth Congregation jointly organized Mount Sinai Cemetery Association. Together they authorized the purchase of five additional acres of land on Gravois Road, adjoining the one-acre tract originally owned by the B'nai Brith Society.
Pursuant to the agreement between Congregations B'nai El and Shaare Emeth, the Mount Sinai Cemetery Association was incorporated on December 22, 1869.
On February 18, 1871, and again on September 2, 1872, the B'nai El Congregation conveyed the one-acre tract on Gravois Road and land on Cooper Street to the Mount Sinai Cemetery Association, thereby giving the Cemetery Association six acres of cemetery land on Gravois road. The Cemetery Association continued to purchase small tracts of land until the cemetery contained 75.30 acres. In 1988 the Association sold 16.17 acres and in 1995 the Association sold 6.36 acres.
In 1872, 43 adults and 53 children were exhumed from the cemetery on Cooper Street and re-interred in Lots 3 and 4 of Block 18 of the Mt. Sinai Cemetery, which are known as "Campspring Cemetery," that presumably was the name of the cemetery on Cooper Street. At this site is erected a marble monument bearing the following inscription:
"The remains of 43 adults and 53 children exhumed from the cemetery on Pratte Avenue and Cooper Street, consecrated in 1848, re-interred by the Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association, November 1, 1872."
In 1990 a granite monument was erected in the front of the present marble obelisk to preserve the wording of the inscription, which was donated by Rosenbloom Monument Company.
Congregation Temple Israel
In the year 1886 Congregation Temple Israel was organized and held its first service in the Pickwick Theater Hall at Jefferson and Washington Avenues. Temple Israel's present place of worship is at Ladue and Spoede roads in St. Louis County. In 1888, Temple Israel was admitted to the Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association.
New Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association
The original Corporate Charter of the Mt. Sinai Cemetery Association, under the existing law, would have expired in the year 1889, twenty years after its issuance, and in the year 1888 the Cemetery Association re-incorporated under the name of New Mount Sinai Cemetery Association and received a Perpetual Charter, under which it now operates.
The Records of the New Mount Sinai Cemetery Association indicate that the first burials in the Cemetery were made in the year 1853.
The Community Mausoleum
On August 12, 1965, the Board of Directors entered into a contract with Acme Marble and Granite Company for the construction of a mausoleum. The mausoleum was completed in May 1969. It has 364 crypts and 2 columbariums for the cremated remains of 72 persons. The building was built so as to permit expansion.
Rabbis Julius Nodel of Congregation Shaare Emeth, Bertram Klausner of B'nai El Congregation and Alvan Rubin of Temple Israel decided upon the Symbolism that would be appropriate for the stained glass window at the rear wall of the mausoleum chapel. Mr. Sol Nodel (brother of Rabbi Julius Nodel) of New York City, an artist of international renown, was commissioned to execute the window. After approval, the Rudy Glass Co. of York, Pennsylvania was employed to manufacture the window measuring approximately 17 feet high and 20 feet across and is composed of 30 panels, containing over 3,500 individual pieces of glass.
By 1988 most of the crypts were sold so the Board of Directors entered into a contract with the Mausoleum Construction Co. of America on November 1, 1988. The new addition to the Mausoleum has 675 crypts. There are eight additional columbarium units for the cremated remains of 320 persons. The stained glass "WINDOW OF TRUTH" was removed and placed in the rear of the new addition, thereby enhancing the beautiful center hall. It was completed in August 1990.
The land around the original mausoleum and its new addition has been dedicated for future expansion. In the fall of 1992 a "Walking Garden" was planned and begun in the area directly in front of the Mausoleum. The garden was dedicated to the memory of all veterans buried in the cemetery in 2003.
The Cemetery Grounds
The cemetery has a chapel, built in 1905, which is no longer in use. It has a storage vault below to temporarily hold 4 caskets. In 1992 and again in 2004, the chapel was repainted. The building housing the office, built in 1916, was originally a rest house and luncheon spot to accommodate the horse-drawn funerals that took an entire day. Also on the grounds, are a well-kept home, a garage, an implement building, plus two large greenhouses for the cemetery caretaker, which were built in 1938.
Over 11,000 people are buried in this Jewish cemetery. Besides the public mausoleum and single graves, there are 1,441 platted family lots, 40 private mausoleums, 2 memorial mausoleums, and 24 sarcophagi. The newest section of the cemetery, encompassing 5.5 acres of single graves and family lots, opened in the spring of 2008.
In 1991, the Board of Directors had the mounds and ivy removed from all of the single graves and family lots after consultation with other local and out of state cemeteries, with approval of all Rabbis and Temples. The cost of maintaining the mounds and ivy on over 9,000 graves was becoming prohibitive.
The People Behind The History
Our last six Executive Directors were I. Schlesinger 1910-1938, Stanley Weiss 1938-1977, Melvin Willick 1977-1998, Charles Eisenkramer 1998-2000, Bennett Lerner 2000-2007, and Daniel Brodsky 2007-2017. Our current Executive Director is Donald Meissner.
Past Caretakers of the cemetery were Anton Pohman 190l-1915, Henry Adam Eirich 1916-1950, and Henry C. Eirich 1950-1980 Our current Caretaker is Scott Eirich, who started in 1980. The job of caretaker has been handed down from father to son since 1916.
Rabbis buried in New Mt. Sinai Cemetery:
- S. H. Sonneschein from Temple Israel
- Leon Harrison from Temple Israel
- Ferdinand M. Isserman from Temple Israel
- Alvan D. Rubin from Temple Israel
- Samuel Sale from Shaare Emeth
- Julius Gordon from Shaare Emeth
- Julius Nodel from Shaare Emeth
- Moritz Spitz from B'nai El
- Julian Miller from B'nai El
- Bertram Klausner from B'nai El
- Adolph Rosentreter from B'nai Amoona
Board of Directors for 2018 with officers designated:
- President - Neil Handelman from Temple Israel
- 1st V. President - Dick Brickson from Shaare Emeth
- 2nd V. President - Bob Sparks from Shaare Emeth
- Treasurer - Jim Eiseman from Temple Israel
- Assistant Treasurer - Robert Epstein from Temple Israel
- Secretary - Norman Roth from Temple Israel
- Assistant Secretary - Monica Simon from Shaare Emeth
- Robert Cohn from Shaare Emeth
- David Eidelman from Temple Israel
- Charles Eisenkramer from Shaare Emeth (Life Member)
- Buddy Loebner from Shaare Emeth
- Louis Loebner from Temple Israel
- Robert Loewenstein from Shaare Emeth (Life Member)
- Bob Ortbals from Temple Israel
- Shirley Schwartz from Shaare Emeth
- Art Silverman from Temple Israel
- Richard Stein from Shaare Emeth
- Charles Werner from Shaare Emeth (Life Member)