Reb Shlomo Yehudah Rechnitz, a Los Angeles businessman whose name is quite familiar to readers of Matzav.com due to his philanthropy, has donated $250,000 to restore the badly vandalized Mount Zion Cemetery in East Los Angeles.
In addition, two other donors, real estate developer Izek Shomof and businessman Adi McAbian, each donated $25,000, and another real estate developer, Michael Fallas, gave $10,000, making possible some major initial repairs to the site, which has been damaged by intruders in recent years, including knocking over gravestones. The century-old cemetery is the gravesite for about 7,000 Jews.
Following these gifts and a site visit on May 30 by key community leaders, the first stage of the crumbling cemetery’s restoration is expected to begin this month.
Articles in the Jewish Journal and Los Angeles Times have raised awareness about the issue in recent weeks. Rabbi Moshe Greenwald, co-director of Chabad of Downtown Los Angeles, is leading the effort to restore the cemetery.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles assumed responsibility for Mount Zion Cemetery in 1969 after its original owner, Chevra Chesed Shel Emeth, was no longer able to maintain it. In the past decade, Federation has provided annual support of about $25,000.
Reb Shlomo Yehudah made news in April when he purchased the beleaguered Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market after it was shuttered following a scandal about its former owner’s mishandling of kosher meats.
Rabbi Rechnitz visited Mount Zion Cemetery in late May for the first time after hearing from a concerned community member about the situation there. Rabbi Rechnitz’s grandfather, Henry Rechnitz, is buried in the adjacent Agudas Achim Cemetery, just a few feet from Mount Zion. Rabbi Rechnitz told the Journal that after viewing some of the destruction at the cemetery, he told Greenwald that he could not see any more and that he was ready to help.
“The situation there is nothing short of deplorable,” Rechnitz said in an interview. “We live in a city that features and showcases so many beautiful, lavish, prestigious homes, and when it comes to our dead we are centuries behind Europe.” He was referring to extensive efforts in Europe to restore and maintain Jewish cemeteries, many of which were desecrated during the Holocaust.
Read more at The Jewish Journal.