In the aging and neglected Jewish cemeteries
of Newark, in Vailsburg and on the City's southeast border, are
plots bearing the names of unique organizations that flourished
for half a century, from the 1880s to the 1930s, in Newark's Jewish
community -- the Landsmanshaftn.
The Landsmanshaftn were mutual-aid societies whose membership
consisted of immigrants who were fellow townsmen from an Eastern
European town or village1,
now settled in America, who met, and often prayed on a regular basis.
The Landsmanshaftn in Newark came from towns and villages (shtetls)
and local groups carried such names as Warschauer, Chudnover, Boryslawer,
Tarnapole, Bialystoker, Berdichover, Minsker, Bolechower, Gombiner,
Rzeszower, and Robeshower Chelmer.
Usually the town or village name was accompanied by a set of initials
such as Y. F. B. A. (Young Friends Benevolent Association), or Y.
F. B. S. (Young Friends Benevolent Society), or just B. S. (for
Benevolent Society). Groups of German origin identified as K. U.
V. for Kranken Unterstitzung Verein. There were other initialisms
Their meetings were both social and cultural affairs and most
also usually sponsored an annual dinner-dance. My parents belonged
to one such Landsmanshaftn society, named after the East Galician
village of my father's birth, and always attended their annual dinner-dance
while their age and health permitted it. They are buried in the
Purpose of Landsmanshaftn
The fellowships of fellow townsmen served a variety of purposes,
the main ones being to retain the Jewish culture of their heritage
while reconciling these loyalties to their newfound American identity.
The common missions of most of the Landsmanshaftn was to provide
reimbursement of lost wages during illness, life insurance, funeral
costs, emergency assistance, and small interest-free loans, and,
most important of all, a cemetery plot in an area owned by the society.
Newark's Jewish Cemetery Locales
The burial plots of the Newark Landshaftn are scattered among
the 113 Newark Jewish cemeteries. The largest is the Grove Street
Cemetery established in 1901 at 211-304 Grove Street. It has 37
separate burial grounds, containing the remains of Eastern European
Other cemeteries in the same Vailsburg area include the Talmud
Torah opposite 616 South Orange Avenue and bounded by Whitney Street
with 24 burial sections dedicated in 1921 and the Union Field Cemetery
on 532 South Orange Avenue, located behind the Pabst building, and
bounded on the other three sides by Grove Street, 14th Avenue, and
19th Street. The complex at this site contains 24 burial sections.
The bulk of the remaining cemeteries are a complex of 27 known
as The McClellan Street Cemeteries located at, or close to, the
intersection of McClellan Street and Mt. Olivet Avenue, just off
Route 1, near the Newark-Elizabeth border. The McClellan Cemeteries
were established in the 1890s.
Nearly all are in neighborhoods that are dangerous to visit, except
on days sponsored by the Jewish Community Foundation of Metrowest
My wife's parents and sister are buried on Grove Street and we
make an annual visit to the Grove Street Cemetery, on a Sunday between
the High Holidays, when police protection is advertised and provided
for the protection and safety of cemetery visitors.
Stepping Stone to Americanism
The Landsmanshaftn movement was an important and major stepping
stone for its immigrant members that helped cushion the transition
of life from the Old World to the New, and from a usually rural
environment to a new, intimidating urban landscape, language, and
Like its counterparts elsewhere, the Newark Landsmanshaftn movement
was basically a one-generation movement. It died as its members
died, or as they or their children moved from the old Third Ward
to better neighborhoods, first to Clinton Hill, then to the Weequahic
Section and, ultimately, to more fashionable homes in the suburbs.
The Landsmanshaftn-sponsored synagogues, for the most part, vanished,
bereft of its organizers and abandoned by their children.
From examining the town names of Newark's Jewish burial plots,
I estimate there were 40-50 Landsmanshaftn by the time that Newark's
Jewish population peaked at around 75,000 in the mid 1930s.
Whatever their number, they served their members well, first in
their transition to a new life in America and to urban living in
Newark, and, upon their death, provided a final resting place for
Today, they are but a distant memory for the children and grandchildren
of their beneficiaries, and, like Newark's once vibrant Jewish community,
and Newark's old Third Ward, they no longer exist.
Selected Landsmanshaft Burial Plots
Grove Street Cemetery:
- Austrian-Hungarian Congregation
- Brisker Congregation
- Chevra Tillium
- Anshe Lubovitz
- Anshe Romania
- Anshe Russia
- Anshe Warsaw
- Erste Bolechover
Talmud Torah Cemetery:
- Chevra Tillum
- Erste Lubarer
- Erste Ostricher
- First Ostropoler
- Independent Lubarer
- Jersey Warshower
- N. J. Oestreicher
Union Field Cemetery:
- Anshe Romania
- Independent Brisker
- Linith Nazader
- Jersey Warshower
- Rheim Ahuvin
- Ungarische Ostricher
- Ruzow Ahava
McClellan Street Cemeteries:
- First Austrian
- First Bershader
- First Bolechover
- First Robishower Chelmer
- First Rzeszower
- Gomel Chesed
- Rehim Ahuvim