WILLETT ST. CEMETERY, located on Cleveland's near west side, is the oldest Jewish cemetery in the city. The Israelitic Society of Cleveland, the community's first congregation, purchased the land for the cemetery on 7 July 1840. The burial ground is now jointly administered by ANSHE CHESED CONGREGATION and the TEMPLE (see TEMPLE-TIFERETH ISRAEL). In Apr. 1840 the Israelitic Society requested the city council's permission to purchase a portion of the ERIE ST. CEMETERY, but the request was denied. Three months later, an acre of land at the junction of Willett St. (now Fulton Rd.) and Monroe St. in OHIO CITY was purchased for $100 from JOSIAH BARBER. The first interment, of a man named Kanweiler, occurred within a month of the purchase. The Israelitic Society and Anshe Chesed merged in 1845, and administration of the cemetery fell to the newly organized congregation. In 1850 the recently established congregation Tifereth Israel requested to share burial privileges, but an agreement was never reached. Tifereth Israel bought approx. half an acre of land adjoining the Willett St. Cemetery in 1853, a picket fence separating the sections owned by the respective congregations. In 1887 Tifereth Israel purchased more than 20 acres fronting Mayfield Rd. in CLEVELAND HTS. for a cemetery named Mayfield Cemetery. In 1890 the two congregations established the United Jewish Cemeteries, providing for joint ownership of Mayfield Cemetery and Willett St. The operation of the two cemeteries by UJC continued into the 1990s.
Many of Cleveland's prominent Jewish pioneers are buried in Willett St. Cemetery. Among them are SIMSON THORMAN, the city's first permanent Jewish resident; GUSTAVUS M. COHEN, chazan at Anshe Chesed in the 1860s and 1870s; Rabbi Aaron Hahn of Tifereth Israel; and author MARTHA WOLFENSTEIN.