Sheffield Cemetery, founded in 1901 by the former Tiphereth Israel Synagogue, is one of the oldest and one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Kansas City. For more than 100 years, families from virtually every Kansas City congregation have buried family members in one of Sheffield’s approximately 6,000 gravesites. Less than 15 minutes northeast of downtown Kansas City, 300 gravesites remain available.
In 1910, the synagogue dedicated a two-story, finely constructed brick-work chapel and caretaker house. It was remodeled and rededicated in 1968. In 1920, as a result of the merger of several Orthodox congregations, the cemetery came under the ownership of Beth Israel Abraham and Voliner (BIAV) Synagogue. Recently, Friends of Sacred Structures has helped to design the proposed renovations.
Crumbling Before Our Eyes. Recognizing the Challenge
The challenges BIAV faces at Sheffield are typical of those faced by other organizations that operate older cemeteries throughout the country, where the few hundred dollars families paid decades ago for gravesite perpetual care have long been depleted. BIAV subsequently established a special cemetery fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City. With a struggling economy, the small congregation was unable to maintain all the cemetery’s requirements.
In the meantime, conditions at the cemetery deteriorated dramatically. Dirt and refuse was piled along its perimeter. Headstones needed alignment. The grounds needed seeding, proper weed and grub control and tree trimming, as well as an irrigation system. Sidewalks and coping around graves were crumbling. The chapel, which had considerable water damage 20 years ago, is in major disrepair and unusable.
These conditions were not reflective of our community. More importantly, they were antithetical to our fundamental commandment to honor our fathers and mothers. As the Talmud (Sanhedrin) states: “Jewish tombs fairer than royal palaces.”
Rabbi Morris B. Margolies, Ph.D., explains: “The deceased are regarded as royalty and the entire environment should be taken care of like a royal palace.”
A Community of Responsibility. Seizing the Opportunity
Recognizing the maintenance of the cemetery as a community responsibility, a group of dedicated individuals representing several congregations joined together in December 2003 to form the Friends of Sheffield Cemetery and create a new restricted fund at the Jewish Community Foundation, the Friends of Sheffield Cemetery Fund.
The mission of Friends of Sheffield is to raise funds and recommend disbursements for the restoration, beautification and maintenance of the cemetery. The fund is governed by a seven- member executive committee and board of directors.
The Friends of Sheffield board oversee the improvements funded by Friends of Sheffield, including competitive bidding for services, selection of contractors and evaluation of contractor performance. BIAV continues to be responsible for the execution of projects that result from these efforts.
Join Our Cause
The families and friends of thousands with roots in Kansas City are buried at Sheffield Cemetery. Many alive today will be laid to rest there with their loved ones. Learn how you may help. Click here.