But what I found more interesting was the old Jewish section of the cemetery. I was shocked at the condition of this section.
The Oak Woods Cemetery is quite distinguished, representing the turn of the century tradition of designing cemeteries as parks. It is landscaped and well-kept.
Except for the old Jewish section. This section is overgrown.
Many headstones are overturned and crumbling.
It appears as if the headstones were moved there. Instead of marking graves, it looks as if the stones were crammed in haphazardly. However, I have found no history to indicate that this is true. The burial sites are so close together, it seems impossible that there is enough space for actual graves. But apparently there are.
What I find difficult to believe is that there is not a historical society or other organization that feels it's important to preserve this historical site. Is it possible that there remains a bias against Jews in this area? Or is it just that no one has the time, interest, or money to make a difference?
Although I am not Jewish, it hurts my heart to see the memories of these people so disrespected. I have visited many overgrown cemeteries, but there is a stark difference here between the care of the other sections of Oak Woods alongside the neglect of this section.
Another issue with Oak Woods is the lack of online records. Of all of the graves I captured in my very few photos, only a couple of them had already been recorded at Find-a-Grave. There are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of headstones in this cemetery. About 10,000 have been recorded on Find-a-Grave. It seems that this should be a prime project for volunteers in this area to tackle. It would be such a service to those whose family immigrated to Chicago and lived here over the years. Maybe I'll get to go back one day and take more pictures.