West 11th Street Cemetery Renewal

Restoring New York's Oldest Jewish Burial Grounds

Congregation Shearith Israel and the 1654 Society are embarking on a much-needed preservation project at Shearith Israel’s West 11th Street Cemetery, New York City’s second-oldest Jewish gravesite. Although this unique and historically important cemetery is quite small, the restoration was surprisingly complicated and challenging, but we are proud of the results. Help us preserve this important piece of our nation’s Jewish heritage: donate today.

To view our growing list of donors, click here.

Shearith Israel is North America’s oldest Jewish congregation, and has been in New York City for nearly 370 years, since the days of Peter Stuyvesant’s New Amsterdam.  The 1654 Society is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-sectarian organization charged with the preservation of the historically significant objects, cemeteries, and synagogue space of Congregation Shearith Israel.

The West 11th Street Cemetery dates back to 1805, and is a national and city landmark rich in historical and cultural significance.  This triangular graveyard reminds the world that Jews have been living in New York City for hundreds of years.  The stories of those buried within, of revolutionary war veteran Ephraim Hart, noted painter Joshua A. Canter, and others, shed light on the birth of our nation, the history of our city, and the cultural and civic development of the American people.  This graveyard is located at 76 West 11th St, just east of Sixth Avenue, in the heart of Greenwich Village. Learn more about the history of our second cemetery here.

On February 27, 2020, the West 11th Street Cemetery turned 215 years old, and was in dire need of preservation and repair.  To make matters worse, a car crash in 2019 resulted in serious damage, requiring us to cover and protect the area with a temporary plywood wall. The cemetery walls were unsound, its grave markers were leaning and nearly illegible, and passersby can learn very little about the cemetery when they stop to linger at its gate.  This living piece of history was vanishing before our eyes, and if renewal efforts were not completed, this cemetery would literally disappear before our great-grandchildren could visit it.

Our dedicated West 11th Street Project Committee consisted of Shearith Israel professionals, congregants, and concerned and historically oriented neighbors of the cemetery, and has worked since early 2013 to get these renewal efforts off the ground.  This tireless group has applied for and received grants, raised private funds, commissioned a structural engineering survey, commissioned a property survey, and consulted with various architects. Ultimately at the recommendation of the committee, Shearith Israel hired a stellar team of restoration professionals including Rachel Frankel Architecture, a respected architect-conservator with decades of experience in the preservation of Jewish burial grounds, Dr. Joan Geismar, Urban Archeologist, Jablonski Building Conservation, Old Structures Engineering, Urban Arborists, and West New York Restoration.  The preliminary estimate for repairing, stabilizing, and beautifying the cemetery was around $500,000, and from the outset, our aim was to raise more in order to maintain the cemetery over time and not let it suffer from neglect. 

A project of this nature takes patience, perseverance, expertise, and financial resources. At long last, in the Fall of 2020, our restoration project was enthusiastically approved by the Community Board and New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and was issued a Certificate of Appropriateness, and construction commenced in the Summer of 2022.  Phase I, the restoration of the wall and urgent repairs, was completed in January, 2023.

We are thrilled with the achievement but our aim is to do more than just repair and preserve this cemetery.  Today, New York’s second-oldest Jewish burial ground is not open to the public and lacks educational signage or visitor guidance.  Thus, our committee set out to accomplish three things:

  1. Complete the urgent repairs in a high quality, aesthetic and, enduring way- COMPLETED JANUARY 2023
  2. Create a maintenance and reserve fund for cleaning, repairs and landscaping – FUNDRAISING IN PROGRESS – DONATE NOW
  3. Open the cemetery to the public, and guide visitors through educational signage, audio tours, and docent-led tours

To date, our committee has raised (and spent!) the funds needed to complete Phase I, and has turned its attention to Phase II: ongoing maintenance, cleaning, repairs, and landscaping.  With your financial support, this too can be accomplished.  We hope to raise an additional $233,000. Please give as generously as your circumstances permit – gifts to date have ranged from under $180 to over $50,000. Gifts of any amount are greatly appreciated and will be recognized.

On September 11, 2023, we held a rededication ceremony and donor appreciation event at the W. 11th Street Cemetery and hope to hold other such events at the site as we meet our goals for Phases II and III. 

Donate below to save the West 11th Street Cemetery and share this treasure with the public.

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To learn more or to discuss a major gift, please contact Rev. Zachary Edinger.

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2 West 70th Street
New York, NY 10023
212-873-0300
info@shearithisrael.org
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