A Bit Of Jewish History

Mt. Zion CemeteryWe stayed at a hotel in Maspeth (Queens). Directly across the street is Mt. Zion Cemetery, a  Jewish burial ground established in 1893. I didn’t take the photo above, but this was essentially the view we had from our room. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a cemetery so closely packed. Before going to New York I had read a few reviews of the hotel and one said the surroundings are “grim.” Well, cemeteries don’t bother Sue and I; in fact, we find them fascinating – so much history! I only wish we had had the time to walk across the street and explore a little. Since returning home I did a little googling and learned some very interesting things about Mt. Zion. For example, many of the workers who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire are buried there. Given the 1893 date, I’m sure there must be Civil War veterans buried there. For certain, there are WWI veterans buried there. See here, here, and here for more.

While I’m on the subject of Jewish history in New York, fellow blogger Keith Muchowski posted about an exhibit that recently opened at a museum in New York on Jews and the Civil War. See Keith’s post here. If you are going to be in New York this summer you might want to check this exhibit out; I wish I could get back for it.

Of course, no history of the Jews and the Civil War would be complete without an examination of Ulysses S. Grant’s infamous General Order No. 11, and it appears that the exhibit includes three mini-documentary films, one of which focuses on General Order No. 11. I was glad to see that Jonathan Sarna is involved with the project. You might recall that he recently published a book that put forth a positive interpretation of Grant and his attitude towards Jewish people. Dr. Sarna was a guest speaker at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site last year and his lecture was well attended and received. The park therefore, decided to try having an annual lecture on Jewish history. On June 2, 2013, the park will welcome Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Jewish Light here in St. Louis. His topic will be “Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War.” If you are interested in attending, remember to call a few weeks ahead and make a reservation.

One thought on “A Bit Of Jewish History

  1. I am glad you all enjoyed staying in Queens, Bob. So many people think Manhattan “is” NewYork that they miss a great deal in the outer boroughs. I have explored a few of the cemeteries in Queens and Long Island and must concur that they are indeed fascinating and contain a great deal of history. One of the best, as it were, is Cypress Hills National, which was one of the fourteen original national cemeteries created by Lincoln in 1862. It straddles the Queens-Brooklyn border. Last year a friend came from Texas for a week and when I asked prior to her visit what she most wanted to see, she said her grandparents’ graves in Long Island. We took the LIRR out there on Friday and went to Ellis Island the following day, where I volunteered before transferring to Governors Island. It was all very moving.

    There used to be people buried on Governors Island but Winfield Scott Hancock had the remains transferred to Cypress Hills when he was headquartered there as commander of the Department of the East. I am going to try to explore some of these sites even more over the spring and summer.

    A friend and I saw Jonathan Sarna speak at Baruch College last year He gave a great talk. As you might imagine, Special Order Number 11 is a big part of the current show at the Jewish Museum. The exhibit focuses a lot on Judah Benjamin as well. Here is a good documentary worth tracking down if one is looking for more:


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