The Costco Cemetery

No matter how new a structure may be as in the case of the now decade old shopping mecca of Stew Leonards, Costco and Home Depot, people like me will always want to know what came before it and what came before that and so on and so forth.

So what did they use that giant hill for prior to the 1990’s when the hill was level, cleared and turned into commercial real estate paradise?

Answer: A small half-acre cemetery for the members of the Congregation People of Righteousness Synagogue.  Now although the Synagogue was in fact on the other side of Yonkers near Ashburton Ave, the Synagogue was torn down in the late 1960’s and the cemetery as you can imagine, fell into major neglect.

This really cool image obtained from SoYo Sunset shows an actual ad for the cemetery, complete with pricing and location!

Now according to Jewish law, once a body is un-earthed, it must be re-located to Israel and according to some, this was not handled properly.

In consultation with the Rabbinical Council of America, then led by Rabbi Benyamin Walfish, the board members of the congregation agreed to hand over the land in exchange for the company’s guarantee to contract for the relocation of all bodies in accordance with Orthodox Rabbinic law.

This was the deal made by the development company and the Rabbinical Council of America, that the bodies would be properly exhumed and that would be that.

According to an article written by Stephen I. Weiss back in 2004, the bodies that were exhumed were in some cases in fact not shipped back to the Holy land…

“In consultation with the Rabbinical Council of America, then led by Rabbi Benyamin Walfish, the board members of the congregation agreed to hand over the land in exchange for the company’s guarantee to contract for the relocation of all bodies in accordance with Orthodox rabbinic law.”

The article continues…

“Plaza Memorial Chapel – then a for-profit enterprise that recently became a nonprofit – was hired to re-inter the bodies. “

“According to the filing, living relatives were found for 20 of the adult bodies, and these were relocated with full documentation to other cemeteries in the United States; approximately 70 other adult remains were allegedly re-interred outside Jerusalem, though the company failed to provide the proper documentation of this process.”

“For example, Turkheim has been informed that tombstones with his relatives’ names exist in a cemetery in Israel, but he has been given no record that the actual remains are there as well.”

Long story short, controversy remains over the handling of the bodies.  Another weird part about the situation are the  number of Children’s bodies that were buried in the cemetery.

Research, both my own and from others does not turn up any hard evidence of a major catastrophe or fire that may have struck the Jewish orphanage or any other places with large numbers of children were living during the 20th century.  94 Adults buried in the cemetery versus a whopping 147 Children!

It is customary in the Jewish faith to place rocks on the grave stone for the dead and it is nice to see that people have continued to do this while taking time out of their shopping.

So next time you find yourself needing that 84 ounce can of Tuna or the 15 pound jar of Mayo, take a few moments to visit the grave stone and reflect on who were the original residents of the hill before the shopping center disturbed their peace.

—–Joshman

 

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7 thoughts on “The Costco Cemetery

  1. love your site. great research. i recall this cemetery on the hill, it was behind the old saw mill river nursing home. my mom worked at the home in the 60s and 70’s.

  2. I remember riding my mountain bike on the property of the old nursing home. But at the time I didn’t know it was a nursing home. It was in disrepair. There was a road that was filled with abandoned cars that dropped down towards Sprain Road. Half way down the hill on the left the cemetery could be found behind a wrought iron gate. I remember the sign above the gate but I don’t remember what it said. There were numerous grave stones in a small area all really close together. The road continued down to a bridge that crossed a stream then on the other side was Sprain Road. There was an abandoned house with abandoned cars around it just before the stream on the same side as the cemetery. To the right opposite the abandoned house was an overgrown children’s play ground. My friend I was with at the time remembered playing there as a young child.

    • Wow John, thanks for the recollection! Any pictures by any chance? If so email them to me and I’ll get them on the site: myyonkers@gmail.com. It’s pretty hard to picture that area nowadays being so serene and nature-like.

  3. I went hiking up in those hills as a teen with my cousin. I have an old picture of the metal cemetery gate that used to be there and was still standing and very visible as a cemetery in 1989. It was one of our adventures as kids.

  4. The cemetery was called Congregation People of Righteousness, That’s what the metal arbor gate had written on it in picture I have . I remember everything John described as well and I have pictures of that too. The burned cars and the white house at the bottom of the hill.

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