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Rainfall Is Eating Away at Hebrew Cemetery

Fifteen graves have been moved as storms erode burial grounds in Richmond, Va.

September 27, 2004|From Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Yellow tape cordons off the back of historic Hebrew Cemetery, where workers moved 15 graves dating from the 1920s to the 1940s after heavy rains washed away part of the grounds.

Recent rains -- including more than a foot from the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston on Aug. 30 -- loosened the earth at the cemetery, causing its north edge to erode and slide to railroad tracks below.

Officials said none of the graves that had to be relocated this month were among about 30 graves of Jewish Confederate soldiers who died in or near Richmond during the Civil War.

"We're in the process of finding the nearest relatives" of people whose graves were moved, said Mitchell Gordon, executive director of Congregation Beth Ahabah, the downtown synagogue that operates the cemetery. "Some are very old -- so that's difficult."

Officials are taking steps to prevent further damage at the 188-year-old cemetery, which has about 2,600 graves. Workers put down large rocks and stacked sandbags to protect the hill from further erosion when Hurricane Ivan's remnants recently passed through the area.

Beth Ahabah is seeking federal funding and has asked its 1,600-member congregation for donations to help fix the cemetery. Other fund-raising efforts are being considered, said Gordon, who estimated repairs would cost as much as $500,000.

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