Virtual Preservation Tour: Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Cemetery

Preservation-Society , April 27, 2020

While you’re stuck at home, we would like to share with you some of our favorite places in Charleston. Join the Preservation Society every week, as we share a virtual tour through the diverse burial grounds of the Charleston Cemetery Historic District!

The congregation of Beth Elohim was formed in 1749 as the fourth Jewish congregation in the United States. The congregation’s first burial ground was established in 1764 on Coming Street. Another Jewish congregation, Shearit Israel, established a burial ground in 1857 on Mt. Pleasant Street in Rikersville, today the corner of Monrovia and King Streets. The two congregations amalgamated as Beth Elohim in 1866, and the Rikersville Cemetery was abandoned by 1888 due to issues with access and drainage. A tract of old muster grounds outside city limits on Huguenin Avenue was purchased from the Washington Light Infantry in 1887 to use as a burial ground, and by 1889, ninety graves and monuments were moved from the old Rikersville Cemetery to this cemetery. The Da Costa Jewish cemetery on the southeast corner of Hanover and Amherst Streets, established in 1780, was abandoned and the land was taken by the City of Charleston for unpaid paving assessments. The four surviving stones were moved to this cemetery. Likewise, the Harby Jewish cemetery, established in 1798 and unaffiliated with Beth Elohim, on the west side of Amherst Street was taken by the City, and the seven remaining stones were relocated to this cemetery. In 1943, adjacent land was acquired, and in 1991 new gravesites were developed on the property that once belonged to the Standard Oil Company. Adhering to Jewish custom, most of the graves face east, so that when the Messiah comes and the dead are resurrected, they will be on the right path toward Jerusalem.

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