Heritage Award for Jewish Cemetery

November 27, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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In a positive testament to a town’s appreciation of the past, Maitland has won a NSW Tidy Towns Award for its care of the Jewish Cemetery.

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Repairing the cemetery

Repairing the cemetery

The Cultural Heritage Award is sponsored by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The Friends of Maitland Jewish Cemetery and Maitland City Council were recognised for their preservation efforts.

The Cemetery is of state heritage significance as the earliest and largest dedicated Jewish cemetery in NSW. With 53 burials in total (dating, in the most part, from 1849 to 1909), the cemetery retains 46 of its original headstones which makes this site the most intact dedicated Jewish cemetery in the state.

Established in 1846 by prominent Jewish settlers of the Maitland region, the cemetery served the Orthodox Jewish community of the surrounding Hunter Valley region and the broader Jewish community of NSW. The cemetery is a physical record of the region’s Jewish community and its survival demonstrates ongoing public interest and connection to the place.

This project is distinguished by its combination of local and Jewish community and governmental efforts to see the Cemetery recognised, promoted and physically conserved.

The Council’s Heritage Officer, Clare James, told J-Wire that collaboration with the Friends had been an important part of the project from the outset.

“As part of the management, plan, the next step will be to install a timber picket fence around the site in keeping with the times” she said.

The site has also been the inspiration for major exhibitions at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery and book publications.

The Maitland Jewish Cemetery is outstanding in its record of early Jewish settlers and emancipists who had a major impact on the establishment of Maitland and the region. It is also of significant value in its historical record as to the rich interrelationship of family member burials over multiple generations.

The only other dedicated Jewish burial site left in the state is in Goulburn but that is in poor condition. There are no records of how it looked in the past and headstones have been removed said Gary Luke from the Jewish Historical Society.

“Maitland’s looks like it would have appeared during Jewish settlement in the period 1830-1850 and is the history of the general spread of settlement in the state’s towns” he said.

The site is open to the public and involves a short walk on a grass track.

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