Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery Vandalized in Philly

I used to have a photo(s) of ourselves, family, in fuzzy unfocused "Baby Brownie" Black and White, of ourselves on Memorial Day or the 4th of July picnics at Wissinoming Park in Philly of over fifty years ago. (Wissinoming - Lenni-Lenape word of "duck creek").

The photos might still exist but are in the hands of my gay brother in Phoenix who refuses to share them with me. Still victimizing his younger sibling after all these years and him pushing 70 - whatever. No love lost there.

Wissinoming Park is a nice little plain stretch of ground with big trees and a dried out impression or small creek bed that runs through the property, all that is left of some 19th century Philly robber baron's country estate. The mansion in the middle of the property is long gone.

The significance of this park was that my father and his childhood family also picnicked there as a child, his childhood home nearby and now under I-95 across from the old Frankford Arsenal.

In a small corner of this very tranquil piece of real estate was a tiny crowded cemetery, a Jewish cemetery with grave stones carved in English but mostly Hebrew. I say crowded because the whole scene is also surrounded by Cedar Hill Cemetery, the major secular cemetery that dominates the landscape north of the old town of Frankford. Some of my great-grandparents buried in there I was told by my wasp grandmother. I have yet to look up that Scots/Welsh branch of my family tree.

The town dates back to the Swedes before the Dutch and the English and the cemeteries were built post Civil War out in the farmland and countryside of Philadelphia County before all this was absorbed into a dense urban center full of factories and now a decaying hulk of a place. But the cemeteries escaped the fate of a lot of once country and then urban cemeteries that were condemned,  disemboweled, and moved on mass in boxed bones to other resting places further out into the outer suburban counties of Philly.

The condemned cemeteries usually ended up as things desperately needed in the urban sprawl as playgrounds or supermarkets or supermarket with parking with other small stores, laundromats in what even in an urban setting is the traditional American Strip Mall.

But surprising there is a hill or higher land setting above the old town of Frankford which now ends as a terminus of the Frankford to downtown to Upper Darby elevated train. The old Frankford Road splits into a fork in the road at the entrance to Cedar Hill Cemetery into Bustleton Pike to the left and on the right old Bristol Pike now Frankford Avenue. - (The road to Bristol Pa. and Trenton N.J. beyond - and the oldest road - originally an Indian footpath in the state.)

Long intro to the Hebrew Cemetery. and the recent tragic event in the news. I say this because between the decay of the old Frankford town and the fancy row houses that went up from the 20s to the 50s of post WWII Mayfair on farmland beyond is this brief land of cemeteries and a park that gives a welcome and calming shade of trees and green to the urban setting.

Surprising to hear of the vandalism of the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery. There always through the years were acts of terrorism vandalism - some spray paint or the turning over of a gravestone or two in Cedar Hill or Mt. Carmel representing IMO more as act of teenage angst on a Saturday night with a couple of buds from the neighborhood sharing a six pack.

While there were pockets of anti-Semitism in Philly, it was nothing what I see on TV or read about in Irish Catholic places like South Boston where the sub-culture there is no doubt back bay Brahmin in direct conflict with working class Irish American and somehow the Jews in between.

I have tried in the past few days to talk to some ppl on Twitter who use the desecration of the Mt. Carmel cemetery as part of some great political plot under the current Russian Junta running the White House.

I am in the middle working with memories of older than forty years from Philly, is the memory that the Quaker subculture was always unique in that tolerance was preached if not always practiced in Philly town square, i.e. the Know Nothing Riots of the 1840s that inspired the RC archdiocese to build a separate and in many ways superior school system for children of that particular belief system. But alas that RCAD only has a few token minority catering high schools left in the inner city to supplement its premiere in the suburb rich white Catholic education business.

I should say that Mr. Carmel was built on a tiny lot, photo below and a text of sort in comment of the current political situation - daily ten minute 1984-style Fake Hates out of the Trump Whore White House. The tiny plot seemed overcrowded in the number of stones per square inch and always seemed to me to comply with the European concept of "ghetto".

I grew up near one of these forgotten and condemned Jewish Cemeteries in Harrowgate, Harrowgate and or the German Cemetery and or Jewish Cemetery on old urban maps. I grew up not even knowing that it was and or once was there. I in a way am a very minor contributor to not letting forgotten Philly and or Harrowgate history slip away into the nothingness of dumbed-down American nothing recognition of the past. Those who do not know of or understand the past are condemned to relive the worst parts of that past etc.

My sometimes hobby is making up a Find a Grave entry for forgotten Philadelphians. I ran into the fact of the old Harrowgate Jewish Cemetery and resurrected the memory of a rabbi once buried there before being moved elsewhere. At the time I did not know that the Cemetery did not still exist. The spot on the map in a Google satellite image is still green etc. I am not perfect but it bothers me that some ppl in Philly died after their children or never married and people who made major contributions to the history of the area are forgotten to the present.  So below one of my grave entries and that in some cases get adopted and managed by others more enthusiastic than moi on the person and or subject matter. Doing my part as part-time amateur historian.

In a way I am here to be along with real citizens and volunteers especially Muslims in Philly to if only virtually restore overturned Jewish grave makers of once free and equal living Philadelphians, I am here to help not lose our valuable American heritage to the current Russian/Nazi Hate generating out of the White House and descended into the apes Republican KKK Party.