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Rich Foundation Awards Historic Oakland $300,000 to Complete Jewish Grounds Restoration

By Pamela Henman
Thanks to a generous grant from The Rich Foundation, Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) is able to continue restoration efforts in the Jewish section of Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest municipal burial ground.
The $300,000 grant, paid in three annual installments, will have a major effect on HOF’s restoration goals for one of the cemetery’s oldest sections. The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation acquired the 1.5-acre Jewish Flats area and the 1.5-acre Jewish Hill area in the late 1870s once the Old Jewish Burial Grounds in the cemetery’s Original Six Acres were full. The Old Jewish Burial Grounds were established shortly after the first Jewish settlers arrived in Atlanta in the mid-1850s. Oakland Cemetery’s Jewish burial grounds are the second-oldest such grounds in the state, after Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery.
“The trustees of The Rich Foundation believe the restoration of Oakland Cemetery’s Jewish Hill is significant because those interred in the area played an important role in Atlanta’s early history,” said Tom Asher, president of The Rich Foundation.
Prominent Jewish Atlantans buried in Oakland Cemetery’s Jewish Hill include members of the Rich family, who founded Rich’s Department Store; Dr. Joseph Jacobs, owner of the pharmacy that served the first Coca-Cola; Jacob Elsas, owner of the Fulton Bag & Cotton Mill; as well as members of the Montag, Selig, Massell, Haas, and Guthman families.
In 2011, The Rich Foundation gave HOF a $65,000 matching grant, which was used to complete hardscape improvements in Jewish Flats, including leveling marble coping and headstones; repairing broken monuments; restoring brick walkways; and cleaning masonry throughout the section. The section also received period-appropriate and traditional landscaping updates. With The Rich Foundation’s most recent endowment, HOF’s Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team will move on to Jewish Hill, where similar improvements are necessary.
An additional $150,000 is needed to complete the restoration efforts at Jewish Hill, and HOF is seeking support from public and private donors to reach that goal. With this additional funding, the PRO Team anticipates completing hardscape and restoration and interpretive components within three years.
“We are so grateful to The Rich Foundation for believing in our mission to preserve, restore, enhance, and share this important part of Atlanta’s legacy,” said David Moore, executive director of HOF. “Our restoration work in the Jewish grounds ensures that this history remains intact for generations to come.”

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