Restoration of a Jewish Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona

Mr. McNULTY. Mr. Speaker, the citizens I have the honor to represent from Tombstone, Arizona recently united in their efforts to restore and consecrate a Jewish cemetery abandoned some 100 years ago.

Mr. speaker, I think it worthy of note that Mr. C. Lawrence Huerta, a community leader and a member of Arizona's State industrial commission, served as a leader of this private effort. He was ably assisted by Mr. David Sirota, who heads the Jewish Friendship Club of Green Valley, a community I also have the pleasure of representing in this body.

Cooperation, mutual respect, and a careful webbing of a community were a fundamental need of the hardy men and women who settled the silver camps and ranching areas of the Old West. Their spiritual successors today have worked together to clear away the underbrush and the cactus that had seemed to erase all signs of the cemetery. Working together this historic place is now open for all visitors to come and learn something about the pioneers who had come long before us. In touching with our past we know something more about our present and so I salute Mr. Huerta, Mr. Sirota, and the many other citizens who aided this effort.

Mr. Speaker, the New York Times reported on these events and I insert that report in the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD at this point, as follows:


TOMBSTONE, Ariz. Feb. 28. -- Over lunch here 18 months ago with Al Turner, a local historian, Israel Rubin and his family learned of the existence of an abandoned Jewish cemetery from the 1880's at Boothill, where some of the town's more notorious residents are buried.

"He asked if we'd like to go see it," Mr. Rubin recalled later. "He didn't have to ask twice."

Mr. Turner led the Rubins, who were visiting from Potomac, Md., and their host, C. Lawrence Huerta, down a slope form the Boothill Graveyard, through catclaw cactus and thick underbrush until they arrived at the crumbled remains of an adobe wall, about two minutes away from the cemetery above that is a national tourist attraction. The Jewish cemetery had long since been reclaimed by desert scrub. No gravestones remained.

Mr. Rubin immediately recited Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, and mused about he possibility of restoring the site for the public. Mr. Huerta was moved to do something about it.

Mr. Rubin returned to Boothill today along with 250 other people to take part in dedication ceremonies for the newly restored cemetery. The cemetery has been cleared of weeks, a wrought-iron fence erected around it and a path laid out from Boothill Graveyard above.


The work on the 100-year-old burial ground was carried out in large part by Mr. Huerta, a Yaqui Indian, who has served as a judge, community college chancellor and member of the state's industrial commission. The effort to restore the abandoned cemetery backs up Tombstone's slogan: the town too tough to die.

Mr. Huerta was assisted primarily by David Sirota, who heads the Jewish Friendship Club of Green Valley, a retirement community 100 miles west of here, who said today, "We thought it would be nice to recognize the fact that there was a Jewish population here in Tombstone."

Tombstone, active as a silver mining camp in the 1880's when its population reaced 6,000, has been resurrected by tourism spurred by romanticized portrayals of the Old West on television and in movies. Today, 1,600 residents live here.

The Jewish cemetery's site was established by Mr. Turner decades ago in conversation with old-timers. According to Mr. Turner, Howard Lindsey, a retired operator of the Boothill attraction, said he had rebuilt the old adobe cemetery wall in the late 1930's.

The dedication ceremony began with Kaddish, this time delivered by Rabbi Joseph Messing of Sierra Vista, the largest city in Cochise County, which takes in Tombstone. Rabbi Messing, now retired, served as an Army chaplain for 30 years.


A two-tier pedestal made of rock from nearby mountains has been built at the center of the 50-foot-by-50-foot cemetery. Ceremonial items were sealed into a burnished safe adorned with Jewish and Indian symbols atop the pedestal. The contents include a yarmulke, a menorah, a Kaddish cup, prayer and hymn books, and an Israeli bowl filled with dirt from Jerusalem.

Mr. Sirota drew laughter when he introduced Mr. Huerta, saying, "Why a full- blooded Indian would want to associate with a bunch of Jews is the unanswered question of the hour."

The 59-year-old Mr. Huerta referred to the ceremony as his bar mitzvah. He donated a Yaqui bowl containing items "which symbolize the harmony between the Jewish pioneers and the Indians." Mr. Huerta wore both an Indian headband and a yarmulke over his braided hair.

The cemetery, within 100 feet of homes in Boothill Estates, a modern residential subdivision, and lying directly beneath telephone and electrical lines faces the Dragoon Mountains. According to Harriet Rochlin, author of Pioneer Jews: A New Life In The Far West, to be published later this year. There were enough Jews in Tombstone in 1881 to organize the Tombstone Hebrew Association. the first thing groups like this would do is conduct High Holy Day services and establish a burial ground.


A business directory form that era reveals Jewish in work and professions such as miner, merchant, banker, grocer, gunsmith and restaurant owner. A Jewish mine superintendent, Abraham Hyman Emanuel, served as the town's Mayor from 1896 to 1900.

And many are quick to point out that Josephine Sara Marcus, Wyatt Earp's third wife, a long-time lover, depending upon which version of the story is true, was a Jewish dance-hall girl.