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Uptown in the News  

September 5, 2007
Volunteers restore Jewish cemetery
By (Felicia Dechter)

Lake View’s Jewish Graceland Cemetery is in the process of being restored to its once-beautiful state, thanks to the joined forces of the Lake View Citizens Council and the Uptown Chicago Commission.

“It’s really significant,” said UCC’s secretary Cindi Anderson, who got the project ball rolling and approached the council with the concept. “It’s a respectful thing to do… it’s heritage.”

Prompted by the unkempt conditions at the cemetery—which is on the 3900 block of North Clark Street—Anderson said it was a perfect project for the two organizations s the place is near Lake View/Uptown boundaries. On two Sundays last month, volunteers showed up to re-seed grass, pull weeds, and clean up headstones.

Each organization kicked in $1,000 towards the project, as did Alderman Tom Tunney, 44th. That $3,000 helped pay for a landscape company, which was able to chip away at a portion of the necessary work. Yet Anderson said about $5,000 more is needed to finish the job.

She added that none of the city’s synagogues have officially helped yet, but part of the plan is to develop relationships between the owner and Lake View synagogues to ensure the maintenance of the grounds in years to come.

“I sense they’re taking a wait and see,” attitude, Anderson said of local temples.

Jewish Graceland is the oldest Jewish cemetery still in existence, founded in the early 1850’s and the burial place of several prominent Jews. There are four Jewish cemeteries on the site, with the outer lots, Gates One and Four, owned by Doris Evon, who purchased them earlier this year from Alexander Lichtenstadt-Partin—a convicted sex offender who bought the first lot in 1994, and the second in ’95. The middle two lots, which are well-kept, are owned by the Hebrew Benevolent Society.

The cemetery is the final resting place for approximately 3,000 people, including many of Chicago’s original Jewish settlers. Yet throughout the years, the grounds have been ignored and many headstones are buried underneath nearly 30 years of overgrowth.

Aaron Shapiro, outreach director at the Lake View Citizens Council, said thus far, volunteers have included people with relatives buried, people who own lots, and a variety of others.

“It was a good project to take o n because it would involve the community,” Shapiro said.

“The Lake View cemetery was in a mind-boggling state of wilderness with no upkeep for over 20 years,” Shapiro added. “Many people who come to Lake View as a destination zone drive by the cemetery. An unkempt cemetery is just too poor a representation of the area.”

Tax-deductible, charitable contributions can be mailed to: Lake View Citizens council, 867 W. Buckingham Place, lower lever, Chicago, 60657, or, Uptown Chicago Commission, 937 Lakeside Place, Chicago, 60640.

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