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B'nai Israel Cemetery


B'nai Israel Cemetery Plot Pricing
Member $1700.00
Non-Member $3400.00 + $400 Refundable Headstone Deposit

To receive member pricing, you must be a member in good standing for 3  years. If membership is forfeit, the plot price will revert to the non-member pricing.

                         

PLANNING A VISIT TO THE CEMETERY

If you are planning to visit the cemetery, here a few things you need to know:
 
For GPS purposes, use the address 1101 E. University Ave. That will direct you to the corner of Williston and E. University Avenue.
 
The gates are locked for security purposes. Each of the locks have a numeric 4-digit code. To gain access, double chai will help you do so.
 
If you are not certain of your loved one's location within our cemetery, please contact the synagogue administrative office and speak with Jenifer at ext. 103 or with Melanie at ext. 105. They will be happy to assit you.

A History of the B'nai Israel Cemetery

The untimely death of a 20-year-old boy and a disputed lottery played major roles in the 144-year history of B’nai Israel Cemetery, believed to be the oldest separate Jewish cemetery in Florida.  

When young Abraham Pinkussohn died on August 27, 1871, he was buried in a plot of ground east of downtown, along a “cow path some distance from the nearest dirt road,” according to the late Samuel Proctor, official historian of the Gainesville Jewish community. Not until five months later, in January 1872, did the founders of the cemetery, Pincus Pinkussohn and Gerson Joseph, obtain a deed for the one acre purchased for $20 from Daniel G. Anderson of South Carolina, and give it the name “Gainesville Jewish Cemetery.”

In 1871, there were no more than two dozen Jews living in Gainesville, and by 1880 half of them had already departed.  (The Pinkussohn family of mother, father and 10 surviving children had moved back to Savannah and do not appear on the 1880 census.)

Jewish cemeteries in the South almost always pre-dated Jewish congregations, and sometimes the cemeteries continued to exist separately from the official Jewish congregation itself.  That was also the case in Gainesville.   B’nai Israel Congregation was officially incorporated on Dec. 22, 1921.  However, the Gainesville Jewish Cemetery had separate trustees until Oct. 10, 1946, 25 years later, when the district court officially transferred its supervision to the trustees of B’nai Israel. 

At the time of B’nai Israel’s incorporation in 1921, a local funeral home donated a cornerstone for the future synagogue building.  The “cornerstone” turned out to be (what else?) a tombstone.  It was decided to use the tombstone as a plaque naming all the trustees, with the order of names on the plaque determined by lottery.  One trustee, Abraham Buns, objected to his low placement in the lottery (he charged “fraud” was involved in the process) and withdrew from the congregation.

Buns, and his wife, Villa, established a parallel congregation consisting of university students who partook of kosher meals at the Buns home.   The Buns had managed the Gainesville Jewish Cemetery since 1919, and continued to do so until Mr. Buns’ death in 1943.  After its transfer to B’nai Israel, prominent members of the community, notably the Lichter, Rudderman and Robbins families, served as chairs of the Cemetery Committee.  When Mrs. Buns died in 1960, she left the bulk of her estate, about $60,000, to the cemetery.

As the Gainesville Jewish population increased, the cemetery began to fill up, even though a second Jewish cemetery was opened by Congregation Shir Shalom in1990, as a section of Forest-Meadows Cemetery on NW 39th Avenue.  Thanks to the foresight of Cemetery Committee Chair Florence Vendeland and B’nai Israel Sisterhood, money was raised in the late 1990s to triple the size of B’nai Israel Cemetery, including almost one-half of the block south of the current Cemetery.   The Emmer, Friedlaender and Levy families provided significant gifts for new walls, gates and beautification.   Some 340 families contributed $36,000 in 2009-10 to build Gainesville’s only Holocaust Memorial in the Cemetery.

Some 300 persons are now buried in the cemetery, which is financed totally by gifts to the congregation’s Cemetery Beautification Fund and the sale of plots to members and non-members.  The original land at the “end of a cow path” is now a small oasis at the very busy intersection of University Avenue and Williston Road, its beauty a source of comfort and pride to members of the congregation. 

Thu, December 2 2021 28 Kislev 5782