The Case for Support
A CORNERSTONE OF JEWISH HISTORY IN KANSAS CITY
Remembering Our Heritage
Sheffield Cemetery, founded in 1901 by the former Tiphereth Israel Synagogue, is the second oldest and one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Kansas City. For more than 100 years, families from virtually every Kansas City congregation have buried family members in one of Sheffield’s approximately 5,500 gravesites. Less than 15 minutes northeast of downtown Kansas City, 300 gravesites remain available.
In 1910, the synagogue dedicated a two-story, finely constructed brick-work chapel and caretaker house. It was remodeled and rededicated in 1968. In 1920, as a result of the merger of several Orthodox congregations, the cemetery came under the ownership of Beth Israel Abraham and Voliner (BIAV) Synagogue. Friends of Sacred Structures encouraged the proposed renovations.
CRUMBLING BEFORE OUR EYES
Recognizing the Challenge
The challenges BIAV faced at Sheffield were typical of those faced by other organizations that operate older cemeteries throughout the country, where the few hundred dollars families paid decades ago for gravesite perpetual care have long been depleted. BIAV’s challenges increased in the early 1990s when controversy arose regarding how best to use cemetery funds. BIAV subsequently established a special cemetery fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, but investment losses in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 further eroded the small congregation’s capacity to maintain the cemetery.
In the meantime, conditions at the cemetery deteriorated dramatically. Dirt and refuse were piled along its perimeter. Headstones needed alignment. The grounds needed seeding, proper weed and grub control and tree trimming, as well as an irrigation system. Sidewalks and coping around graves were crumbling. The chapel, which had considerable water damage was in major disrepair and unusable.
These conditions were not reflective of our community. More importantly, they were antithetical to our fundamental commandment to honor our fathers and mothers. As the Talmud (Sanhedrin) states: “Jewish tombs fairer than royal palaces.”
Rabbi Morris B. Margolies, Ph.D, of blessed memory, explained: “The deceased are regarded as royalty and the entire environment should be taken care of like a royal palace.”