Reno was a mere ten years old when in 1878 the Hebrew Cemetery was established on the appropriately named Angel Street, now just west of the University of Nevada, Reno. This is the only entirely Jewish cemetery in northern Nevada, although there are remnants of ones in Virginia City and Carson City. It remains an active cemetery with a park-like setting, enhanced by thick green grass and shady trees.
The job to form the cemetery fell to local merchant David Lachman. He was a principal in the formation of a Jewish society called Chebra B’rith Sholam, whose primary purpose was to provide a proper burial. The founding members purchased two acres from Wiltshire Sanders on May 25, 1877, one mile north of the downtown business district. The cemetery was dedicated by visiting rabbi Solomon Aragor. An article in the May 19, 1880 Reno Evening Gazette states, “The location is good and… the Hebrew Cemetery will be a delightful suburban retreat from the cares and sinfulness of the world.” The Cemetery was consecrated, meaning that Jewish customs, such as no burial on the Saturday Sabbath and rapid burial for the deceased, will be followed.
Unlike many cemeteries, individuals do not actually own their plots. The Hebrew Cemetery Inc., supported by the synagogues Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sinai, retains ownership and people have an “easement of use” for a plot as needed. This contributes to the beauty and upkeep of the common property. The site has 300 graves with about 12 spots available. The association realized that it was running out of room and purchased a de-commissioned street to the south of the current location. This section will also offer a section for cremains and a columbarium. Fund raising to develop the site is underway.
Walking among the monuments and stones, some of Reno’s earliest families are represented: the Sheyers, the Levys, the Jacobs, and of course the Lachmans. These pioneering Jews were among the early purchasers of lots when Reno was laid out in 1868. By 1900, Reno Jews numbered approximately 140.
Many of the early gravestones proudly announce the country of origin for the interred. In this cemetery, the immigrants came mostly from Germany and Eastern Europe. There are some 100-year-old wooden markers, sadly fading to the elements. Another source of pride for the deceased is their U.S. Military service. The oldest military marker is for Spanish American war veteran Cpl. Mark Robinson, who served in 1898 in the 1st Nevada Infantry Company A.
The cemetery is also the final resting place for many notable area businessmen: Harry Parker, El Cortez Hotel developer Abraham Zetoony (1893-1940), and his nephew Joseph. Nearby is the grave of Nathan Bulasky (1885-1928) whose sons leased the El Cortez property from Zetoony, adding the legendary Trocadero showroom that featured Chico Marx, Victor Borge and others.
Reno’s Hebrew Cemetery is now severed from downtown by the I-80 freeway but it remains a lush and peaceful link to the Jews of Reno’s past.