Sons of Zion Cemetery Tour

Cemeteries of Chicopee

  • Private GROUP TOUR (COSTS) is one hour long for this Sons of Zion Cemetery walking tour. Also a one hour indoor presentation can be given.
  • A free public tour comes up every five years.
  • A self-tour is available for anyone using the maps and text seen below.LOCATION
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sons-of-zion-cemetery-tour-map-1024x763.jpg

stop 1 – Chapel and Sons of Zion Cemetery

The chapel in the front corner of the cemetery is dedicated to Rose Epstein. She was born Rose Orlen in 1884 and died in 1930. She married Max Epstein who was a brother of Samuel. Their gravestone is in the back row of the old section. After you take this tour, be sure to wander around the cemetery to take in all the sites.

This cemetery is a trolley cemetery. It was built on land that Charles Abbey had a large farm on and was selling during the 1890s. Abbey was trying to sell to make a trolley suburb as were forming in many places around Holyoke and its neighboring towns. It did not make it as a trolley neighborhood. The Jewish congregation in Holyoke did want low cost land and easy way to get to a new cemetery. This Fairview line was the answer.

stop 2 – Epstein family (part A)

The Epstein family of Holyoke is a Jewish family that came from Slomen Russia. Samuel Epstein came to the United States in about the middle of the 1890s. He married Mary Zaltzman in Russia and had at least one child there – his name is Israel Epstein born in 1892 in Slomen. This small family would end up in Holyoke. In 1915 Israel would marry Sarah Magaziner. He would also in 1911 start a furniture store in Holyoke that was located on Park Street. His son William would continue (from 1939) that venture with his sons until 2000. There were three more locations of the store from the original – 456 Main Street – in 1930, 443 Main Street – 570 Dwight Street.

Samuel had a father named Itzek who in 1903 would move to Holyoke from Russia. Thus there has been 5 generations of Epsteins in Holyoke. If you walk to the back row of the old section you will see the stones for Samuel and Itzek.

stop 3 – History of the Sons of Zion Synagogue (Holyoke)

This group started in Holyoke in 1904. They chartered at their present home and they added to it. The left is an addition and the right is mostly the old building. The building started out as a Society of St Jean Baptiste run by Quebec people. In 1915 the Sons of Zion would move into the building. They would expand it twice in the 1940s and it was officially dedicated during the week December 1 to 7 of 1950. This building is at the southeast corner of Cabot and Maple Streets.

Mendel Margolis was one of the religious leaders that served the synagogue.

In the photograph of his family he is with his wife and four sons and one daughter. His wife is Mariam Briskin and his daughter is Sarah. One son is named Max. Mendel served both synagogues as a religious leader during the time that Leib Forer was the rabbi at both synagogues in Holyoke. In fact his service might have allowed Forer to serve both since he had a trusty assistant.

stop 4 – Military gravestones

Louis Goodstein of Holyoke served the US during WW1 at Camp Dix in Trenton New Jersey. He died April 5 1918.

stop 5 – Early burials

The first burials in this cemetery was in the year 1896. The is a stone in the back left that is from 1898. The stone to a Jenny Berg has a death date of 1896 but she actually died in 1906. This cemetery was called the Hebrew Cemetery. It served both Jewish congregations of Holyoke until August 1928 when Rodphey Sholom Cemetery had its first cemetery.

In this old section there is also Rosa Blank who died in 1896.

There is a Zelda Bernstein who died in 1892. She actually died in 1902.

stop 6 – Hebrew Writing on Gravestones

Notice the Hebrew alphabet on the stones in this row. The Hebrew writing is from top to bottom as in English but the writing is from right to left. These very early burials would have been from the Rodphey Sholom Synagogue.

Rodphey Sholom Cemetery and Synagogue

Rabbi Judah Leib Forer is buried in the other Jewish Cemetery of Chicopee. He is buried in a mausoleum along with his wife. This Rodphey Sholom Cemetery like the Sons of Zion Cemetery belongs to a Holyoke religious institution – Rodphey Sholom Synagogue. The synagogue is at the corner of Northampton Street and Forer Avenue. The cemetery is on the upper section of Pendleton Avenue also in Chicopee. Forer was rabbi for both synagogues for 25 years. Rodphey Sholom Synagogue practices Orthodoxy whereas the Sons of Zion Synagogue practices Reform. The Rodphey Sholom Synagogue was moved from Park Avenue to Northampton Street in September of 1953. (On March 10 1951 this new synagogue was proposed.) Its origins as a congregation are from 1896 but they did not have a formal synagogue yet. In 1902 they celebrated their services at a building in South Holyoke on Main Street. Within the year they had a beautiful synagogue built for themselves on Park Avenue at the corner with Adams Street. Their predecessor organization was a brotherhood group that started in Holyoke in 1891 – Agudas Achim. Before 1891 the Jews in the area would go to Springfield to celebrate their religion. To give you a few numbers in 1890 there were 5 Jewish families in Holyoke and all were of German descent. A mere dozen years later there were 100 Jewish families in Holyoke and all were of German, Russian, and Polish descent and all lived in South Holyoke.

Alexander Rosan1905FINDAGRAVE
Abraham Saltzman19061916FINDAGRAVE
Leib Forer19241948FINDAGRAVE
Sender ShizgalFINDAGRAVE

stop 7 – Epstein (part B)

Samuel Epstein and his wife are buried in the last row. His father Iztek and mother Mary are also there.

stop 8 – Epstein (part C)

Rose Orlen is buried in the last row also. Her husband Max Epstein and her son David are with her. Remember that she is the one who the chapel is dedicated to. Her obituary gives no hint as to why the chapel was dedicated to her.

stop 9 – Modern Section

Samuel Resnic is buried with his wife in the modern section of this cemetery.

He was mayor of Holyoke for 7 years from 1956 to 1963. He was the first Jewish mayor of Holyoke.

stop 10 – Interfaith Section

This cemetery has started an interfaith section for those who are married to a Jewish person but remain Christian themselves. See the Levine stone in back.

stop 11 – New Gates and the Neighborhood

Notice the year on the back gates. The Jewish calendar year matches it.

This cemetery was once at the crossroad of two busy streets. Ludlow Road once lead from the Falls section of South Hadley into Ludlow. It stops soon after this cemetery since the start of Westover Field in 1939 needed the land. New Ludlow Road was constructed in the place of Ludlow Road. The other cross street is Old Lyman Road. It starts off of the Route 202 and Route 33 juncture. Once neither of those highways existed and Old Lyman was the main street between the Plains area of South Hadley and Chicopee.