B'nai David Cemetery ... And You
avid Goldman is a mentsh. And
I should know — I get confused
for one all the time. And, like a
mentsh, he would be quick to tell you
that his efforts have nothing to do
with him and everything to do with
the women in his life: his daughter
Eva, a soon-to-be bat mitzvah with a
continuing commitment to service;
his wife Amy, the Metro Detroit na-
tive who lured him to Michigan from
Chicago in 1998; and Esther Malka
Shibovich, Amy's great- (Eva's great-
Esther succumbed to the flu in
1918, one of tens of mil-
lions of people who died
in the pandemic. And
probably the only one who
mattered to her son Benny,
who, orphaned at age 6,
never stopped visiting his
mother at the Jewish cem-
etery on Van Dyke between
Harper and McNichols.
I never knew there was
a Jewish cemetery on Van
Dyke between Harper and
McNichols. But I should
have known something holy was
afoot when I stepped out of the
monthly Project Healthy Community
food pantry at the Northwest Ac-
tivities Center (aka the Meyers-Curtis
JCC) to field a phone call from David
(Goldman) by way of David (Lerner)
about (B'nai) David Cemetery.
I don't spend much time in cem-
eteries.This is generally a good thing.
But as someone who is a (B+/A-)
student of history — and believes
that history is best told, not in years or
decades, but in generations — I have
been captivated by my recent time at
B'nai David Cemetery.
The emigration and American
experience of Bessie Solovich, born
1831? The unrealized adulthood of
Hyman Kaplan whose life, at 21, was
"unlighted by Lake St. Claire?" The life
Laura DeRoven led for 45 more years
before returning to lie beside her
husband in 1975?
To say nothing of the stories of the
cemeteries themselves. There are
four Jewish cemeteries in Detroit.
In the Jewish section of Elmwood
Cemetery, Temple Beth El forefathers
are interred among the soft hills and
a stream courtesy of Frederick Law
Olmstead, who designed the grounds
for people to picnic there.
Woodmere, too, has a Jewish
section and many famous tenants
nearby, including the founders of
Buick, Cadillac, Carhartt, the
Detroit News and Vernors.
Beth Olem Cemetery, now con-
tained completely within GM's
Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly Plant, is
open to the public twice a year.
As for B'nai David, there can't be
more than two degrees of separa-
tion from the 1,200 people
buried there and the
(living) members of our
community. Which is to say,
if you don't know someone
there, you know someone
So feel at least a tinge of
Jewish guilt that B'nai Da-
vid is in bad shape. Weeds
grow like weeds. Animals
dig around grave sites.
Headstones topple from
the shifting earth.
The first B'nai David burial was in
1898, the most recent in 2009. And
one current member of our commu-
nity intends on joining her husband
there when the time comes.
I hope you will join us between 10
a.m. and 4:30 p.m. this Sunday, April
27, (coincidentally, the same day Beth
Olem is open) to perform the mitzvah
of k'vod ha-melt, honoring the dead.
We have good work for you and all
the people you recruit, both on the
cemetery grounds and tackling the
illegal dumping nearby, thanks to
support from the Jewish Fund and a
dunnpster from Mitch (also a mentsh)
at Cohen Scrap Metal.
I have a morbid (mortal?) curiosity
as to when the population of Jews liv-
ing in Detroit fell below the number
buried there. I think that majority
will flip in the years ahead — to say
nothing of those of us"Detroiters in
exile"— but, in the meantime, let's
live to serve our forbears and their
Want to volunteer or visit? Email ben@werepair.
org or call (313) 3388-BEN.
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itrpTilltrIlD I May 2014 33