Cneseth Israel Cemetery

This is what a typical Jewish cemetery looks like in Pittsburgh: straight rows of graves with foot-wide alleys between, each grave given just enough space for the coffin and no more. They look like crowded urban neighborhoods, and they are designed to make the most use of the least space.

For some reason, a large number of Jewish congregations in the city bought land for cemeteries in Reserve and Ross Townships north of the Allegheny. Many of them are not marked on maps, but a satellite view will reveal the distinctive tight rows of graves.

Because of frequent vandalism, many Jewish cemeteries are gated and locked, with “NO TRESPASSING” signs on the gates—a sorry reminder that, even today, it is not always easy being Jewish. This cemetery, however, was open (Father Pitt would never walk past a “NO TRESPASSING” sign without permission of the owners).

This cemetery is notable for the large number of stones with embedded photographs, and for a good number of rustic stumps crowded in with the rest of the monuments.

One response to “Cneseth Israel Cemetery”

  1. Love your site!

    I was told the reason why the Jewish cemeteries are located where they are is that the farmers who owned the land weren’t able to use these steep, hilly section for crops or grazing, so they would sell off these small sections. I suspect that when most of them were purchased (early 20th c.), the precedent of the North Hills had already been set (the first Jewish cemetery in Pittsburgh is Bes Almon in Troy Hill, founded 1847), and probably this was where there was farm land that hadn’t been encroached upon by heavy industry. I suspect looking at old county plat maps would clarify things a bit.

    I don’t think it was just Jewish congregations that preferred this area — many of the Jewish cemeteries are near/adjacent to much larger Catholic ones!

    If you’re interested, here are some photographs of more Jewish cemeteries from this area, including Cneseth Israel:

    Thanks again for a great site!

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