The hard work of a group of volunteers is likely to safeguard a cemetery almost forgotten, tucked away in a paddock at Louth Park.
The Friends of Maitland Jewish Cemetery with a little digging, so to speak, have provided Maitland City Council with the seeds of a plan that could see the burial ground placed on the NSW State Heritage Register.
“The conservation plan has come together really nicely with the help of the friends group,” council’s heritage officer Clare James said. “They were able to provide invaluable information in helping us develop the plan.”
The cemetery was established in 1846, making it the oldest dedicated Jewish burial ground in NSW.
The friends group has revealed information surrounding the site’s first two burials.
They were two young girls, Jane and Hannah Cohen – cousins – who died of scarlet fever during an outbreak in Maitland.
“This indicates that the cemetery itself is significant for being representative of patterns of life and death within the local community and the Jewish community, in that the first two deaths were the result of an epidemic,” Ms James said.
The site’s historical value has already been enshrined within the Maitland Local Environment Plan 2011, but listing on the NSW State Heritage Register would make available funds for works and general upkeep.
Forty five monuments can be found on the site, ranging from 1849 to 1909 – many in need of conservation and repairs, having suffered significant damage in the past 40 years.
As per council’s conservation management plan native grasses would be planted as groundcover.
Council would also reconstruct a picket fence around the site if councillors endorse the plans tomorrow night.
“It is considered appropriate to reinstate this fence to afford greater protection to the monuments from livestock damage,” Ms James said.