This year marks Clover Hill Park Cemetery's centennial. Located in Birmingham, Clover Hill was founded by the early leaders of Detroit's Congregation Shaarey Zedek. One of 25 Jewish cemeteries in the area, Clover Hill Park Cemetery connects more than three generations of metro Detroiters.
In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, 17 followers of traditional Judaism withdrew from the Beth El Society, Detroit's first Jewish congregation, which had adopted the reform style of worship in 1860, to found the Shaarey Zedek Society. Soon after, as was the custom of Jewish congregations, land was acquired for a cemetery. The parcel, on Smith Street in Detroit, measured 2.2 acres and was deeded on February 5, 1862, to Samuel Fleishman and Issac Parchalsky, acting as agents for the Shaarey Zedek Society. Today, the tales of the residents of Beth Olem Cemetery, often referred to as the Smith Street Cemetery, and of its successor, Clover Hill Park Cemetery, are important historical records of the story of Jewish Detroit.
Although the name of the first person interred in Beth Olem Cemetery has been lost, the oldest documented burial was Harris Levy, who was born in 1825 and died in 1857. The oldest surviving tombstone is dated 1876, but the name on the headstone is unreadable. Additional parcels of land were acquired over the next few decades, with the greatest number of burials at Beth Olem occurring between 1890 and 1920.
By 1918, unable to expand further and with a migrating Jewish population, land was purchased in what was when Troy Township (now Birmingham), consisting of 50 acres on the north side of Fourteen Mile Road just east of Woodward Avenue. The cemetery opened in 1918. The first burial, on July 10, 1919, was 60-year-old Adolph Blumberg, whose brother, Morris Blumberg, and purchased the lot only two days earlier. In 1923, the congregation passed a resolution establishing a Perpetual Trust Fund that sought to "obtain an income to insure the perpetual upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery in a proper state of preservation and attractiveness."
Today, there are 26,000 gravesites at Clover Hill. Recent upgrades and updates to the cemetery have only enhanced its beauty and function, and Clover Hill hired its first executive director in 2003. More than 300 trees stand on the property. An arborist looks after the trees, ensures the health of the vegetation, plants additional trees as necessary, and prepares new sections with paths and trees.
In the spirit of the dedicated founders of 100 years ago, Clover Hill remains a beautiful, park-like resting place for our ancestors and for future generations. With a commitment to Jewish tradition and openness to today's modern Jewish family, Clover Hill Park Cemetery continues to take seriously the mitzvah of kavod hamet, honoring the deceased.