Over 100 volunteers gather in Oxford Circle to restore historic cemetery

One Northeast Philadelphia community is restoring a historic Jewish cemetery, one stone at a time. More than 150 volunteers gathered in Oxford Circle Sunday afternoon for cleanup efforts at Har Nebo Cemetery.

Har Nebo Cemetery was founded in 1890 and is considered Philadelphia’s oldest privately-owned Jewish cemetery. It covers 28 acres and is the resting place of nearly 34,000 people.

"The patriarch of our family came over in 1883 and passed away in 1897 and is here," said Rich Blumberg, Chair of the Friends of the Jewish Cemetery.


Blumberg said he’s an individual descendent of about 10 family members who are part of the cemetery and said, while his family stones were in good shape, he noticed many needed restoration and repairs.

"These stones were just lying on the ground. This stone right here was broken into pieces. One of our volunteers dug into the earth and [the stone] was epoxied," said Blumberg. "We brought in a certified expert who is able to lift stones that were anywhere from 400 to 1,000 pounds."

The Friends of the Jewish Cemetery, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, raised funds to restore more than 30 stones and have plans to continue the work.

"There’s a deep heritage here. There are deep roots in the Jewish community here. We have 35,000 plots of people buried here and many of them no longer have family or friends to take care of them," said Lasday. "It is our responsibility to take care of this holy place looking back and also looking forward to the future."

Scheduled clean-ups will continue to happen. On Sunday, families of all ages came together to rake, remove trash and clip overgrown vines.

"The more you walk around, the more you appreciate the history and the number of graves that are here. You can’t get an electric lawnmower up close to the old monuments, so that has to be done by hand and it’s labor-intensive and expensive," said Eileen Sklaroff, a long-time volunteer in the Jewish community. "Every cemetery, not just Har Nebo, deserves to be kept in pristine condition."

Anyone interested in supporting Har Nebo Cemetery by donating funds or volunteering time, can get information by emailing the Jewish Federation at JLasday@JewishPhilly.org.