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January 27, 1995 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-01-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

is

owes

from the

art

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM
ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Ten true stories of rnobsters, mystery, murder and men of valor

n the early days, place of gangsters, great rabbis and
before
there was a war heroes, and thousands of men,
efore
b
single headstone, the women and children.
There are stones for infants never
land on which Mach-
pelah sits was home to named, and graves of parents whose
cows and chickens and passing has left a neverending
-
sadness, like some kind of dark
ducks.
Jim Grey of West Bloom- shadow, in the hearts of those who
field, whose grandfather helped survive.
"Daddy," notes left at stones some-
establish Machpelah and served as its first
vice president and treasurer, remembers times read, "I miss you so much."
The cemetery takes its name from
his father talking about the farm animals
the Cave of Machpelah, located in
and a large pond there.
That was decades ago, when Woodward modern Hebron, which Abraham
Avenue had just a handful of businesses, purchased as a place to bury his
and horse-drawn carriages still clicked up wife, Sarah. Later, Abraham, Isaac
dust with their rickety wheels. It was 15 and Rebecca, as well as Jacob and
miles from Detroit to Machpelah, located Leah, all were buried in the cave.
on Woodward Avenue between Eight and Some sources say Adam and Eve lie
Nine Mile roads in Ferndale. The ceme- there, too.
One of the central reasons behind
tery was at the end of the streetcar line,
making it a good half-day trip from down- the establishment of Machpelah was
that Detroit's other main cemetery
town.
With 14,000 graves, Machpelah is one was filling up. (Beth Olam had been
founded in 1862 and
of Detroit's largest Jewish
was operated by the
cemeteries. It was founded in
Beth Olam Cemetery
1910 on property purchased
Association, comprising
from Adolphus Granger, and
congregations Shaarey
overseen by the Goldstein and
fro,. n the
Zedek, B'nai Israel and
Oppenheim families.
Beth Jacob.)
Granger settled in 1861 in
From 1910 until the 1920s,
Ferndale, where he purchased
the
Machpelah cemetery
a 25-acre parcel of land in-
01:
board met regularly, func-
cluding what would become
tioning as a for-profit organi-
Machpelah. According to Roy-
zation called the Machpelah
al Oak historian David Pen-
Cemetery Association. Then
ney, Granger used the land for
Samuel Goldstein died in
this
is
the
a saw mill.
1921, and the Depression be-
Machpelah's first burial was
second in a
gan
with the stock market
in 1914 (see story "Number
series on
crash
in October 1929.
One"), a Russian immigrant
Detroit's Jewish
For many years afterward
who died of lung disease.
there were no profits, with
cemeteries.
Eighty-one years later, the
every penny from burials
cemetery is the final resting

_

STO RIES

ci,u- zDENs

STONE

The deck may have been

FE stacked, but almost everyone ac-

going toward basic maintenance of the
facility. The cemetery was able to continue
solely thanks to the efforts of one man:
David Oppenheim.
When its 30-year charter expired in
1940, David Oppenheim changed the
status of Machpelah to a not-for-profit
corporation. This brought to an end any
rights of previous shareholders and
established a new Machpelah Cemetery
Association featuring an eight-member
board of trustees, all of whom were
Oppenheim family members.

knowledges that it was the Op-
penheims who made the cemetery
Fcg what it is today, and often at their
(T- own expense. For years Oppen-
heim family members paid out of
their pockets to maintain the fa-
cility — sustaining it until after
World War II, when Machpelah
again began to see profits.
Today, David's son, Royal, is in
charge of the cemetery.
Machpelah has faced in its long
history a number of controversies.
The first came in the early part of
the century, when Ferndale city of-
ficials decided to widen Woodward
Avenue. This would mean moving
some of the graves at Machpelah
— an idea cemetery officials
strongly opposed.
Ferndale leaders eventually took
the issue to court, challenging not
only Machpelah but the other
landowners reluctant to turn over
their property in the effort to widen
Woodward. Finally, however, city
officials managed to secure enough
donated land and the court case
was dropped.
Probably Machpelah's most famous
case, however, involves Southfield resi-
dent A.M. Silverstein, who charged that
Machpelah in fact belonged to several
Orthodox congregations.
For 27 years Mr. Silverstein argued his
position, even standing outside the ceme-
tery during funerals and taking his case
to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Then in 1987 he agreed, as part of a
libel and slander suit brought against him,
never again to speak or write publicly
about the issue. Li

N

L\

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