Home of Eternity Cemetery

Oakland, Alameda, California, United States

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In almost every town and city in America where Jews settled, one of the first things they did as a group was to establish a cemetery. In 1862, a group of leaders in Oakland decided to establish a new city cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue (which was then at the outskirts of the town). They called themselves the Mountain View Cemetery Association, and hired Frederick Law Olmstead, one of the leading landscape architects in the nation, to design the grounds. As they were planning the site, a group of local Jews asked to purchase a portion of the property as a specifically Jewish burial ground. Mountain View’s founders agreed to sell the land, and in 1865 Home of Eternity was established. A decade later, in 1876, many of the same men created Oakland’s first synagogue, Temple Sinai. In the 1880s the synagogue officially acquired the cemetery. While it is probable that burials took place in the early years, one of the oldest surviving markers is that of Jacob Letter. He was an early member of the community, and a founder of both the cemetery and Temple Sinai. He died on the day of the dedication of the synagogue’s second home in 1886. Members of other founding families, including the Hirschbergs and Coffees, are buried in family plots at the lower end of the property. The parents of Judah Magnes (the first President of Hebrew University in Jerusalem) were community founders; they are also buried there. The parents of Gertrude Stein are buried near the Magnes family’s plot. Much of Oakland’s Jewish history is reflected in the cemetery’s monuments. Members of the Kahn and Pantoskey families, who ran major businesses in the city from the 1880s through World War II, were members of Temple Sinai. So was Abraham Jonas, a civic leader for over 25 years. Many of them have prominent grave markers, and a few have large monuments. Among the more unusual tombstones is that of Simon Argevitch, the holder of a Guinness record: he could hold over a dozen cigars in his mouth and whistle at the same time. His grave is at the top of the property near the mausoleum. In the mid-1930s Temple Sinai built a main Mausoleum at the North end of the cemetery. It includes both crypts and niches for Temple members and others in the community. The Mausoleum has been expanded over the years, including a 2-level section on the North side which contains upper and lower gardens.
Home of Eternity Cemetery, Created by Garri IGRA, Oakland, Alameda, California, United States