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A home between death and life: mausoleums as liminal spaces of memory for classical reform Jews of Temple Emanu-El, 1890-1945.

In early twentieth-century New York City, members of the Classical Reform Temple Emanu-El led lives of splendor. (1) They lived in stately townhouses in Manhattan and worshipped at their cathedral-like, jewel-box synagogue at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 65th Street on New York's Upper East Side. (2) When they died, members were buried a few miles away at the temple's Brooklyn cemetery, Salem Fields. In death, these families transitioned from worldly homes of high taste to equally exquisite deathly homes: luxurious family mausoleums, which were made of marble, mosaics, and stained glass; and furnished with lounges, tables, and Persian rugs. Salem Fields Cemetery stands today as a rich repository of memorial art, including about six hundred of these family mausoleums, which date roughly from 1890 to 1945. (3) Each is a record of social status, artistic taste, and family memory. The mausoleums of Salem Fields are liminal spaces, standing at the intersection of several spheres of transition, identity, and culture: life and death, home and temple, and what it meant to be German-American, Jewish, and Classical Reform.

Salem Fields was designed as a landscape of repose, with rolling hills, flowers, and trees. It was part of the "garden cemetery" movement, a trend in nineteenth-century American burial practices in which new cemeteries were built outside city limits. Many of these new cemeteries were beautifully landscaped and, like public parks, they served as havens from city life. For many people, including Jews and Christians alike, this setting carried theological implications for the fate of the deceased, as gardens seemed to promise a peaceful rest. Salem Fields is unusual among garden cemeteries, though, since it was laid out in a curving grid of burial plots. In this way, it bridged the earthly world of Manhattan society to an otherworldly "city of the dead."

Inside each mausoleum, ethereal stained glass and home furnishings made for a liminal space between the domestic and the sacred. Nearly all mausoleums at Salem Fields have stained glass windows, and these were created in a range of styles and designs, from symbolic landscapes to religious heraldry. Their soft glow adds an otherworldly and sacred element to each space. In addition, many mausoleums were furnished with lounges, tables, chairs, and Persian rugs. These furnishings echo the late nineteenth-century ideal of dying at home--which was seen as a "good death"--and in this way, they anchor the mausoleums as spaces of transition between this world and a world to come.

All the while, the patrons of these mausoleums walked a thin line between embracing their Jewish identity and assimilating into American culture. These questions of identity are reflected in the designs, motifs, and very existence of these memorials. Most members of Temple Emanu-El were German-American, and in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, their place within American Jewry was shifting. Since their arrival in the early nineteenth century, many German-American Jews had achieved economic success and relative social integration into American society. They practiced Reform Judaism and lived largely secular, assimilated lives. Many Reform congregations in New York City were founded on the Lower East Side, but they moved uptown as soon as they could afford it. Congregations such as Emanu-El, Rodeph Sholom, and Beth-El--with which Emanu-El merged in 1927--built grand, spacious synagogues along the affluent, tree-lined streets of the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. (4) Like other wealthy Reform congregations, Emanu-El counted socialites, influential businessmen, and patrons of the arts among its members. Culturally, German-American Jews aspired to the American mainstream elite, feeling that they differed from their Protestant neighbors in faith alone. Whenever possible, they refrained from outwardly announcing themselves as Jewish.

At the end of the nineteenth century, their place began to shift as great numbers of Eastern European Ashkenazi and Eastern Sephardi Jews arrived in the largest wave of Jewish immigration to the United States. This final group of Jewish immigrants, because of their greater number, relative poverty, and cultural isolation, assimilated far less easily into mainstream Protestant American life. To their dismay, German-American Jews found themselves a minority within American Jewry, and quickly sought to distinguish themselves from their Eastern European counterparts--just as their ancestors in Germany had done generations earlier. Beginning in the eighteenth century, German Jews had aspired to assimilate into elite German gentile culture, whereas Eastern European Jewish immigrants tended to remain culturally isolated from local Christians. German Jews spoke German and insisted on a separate, unique German-Jewish identity, while Eastern European Jews typically spoke Yiddish and embraced a "pan-Ashkenazi" identity. The fact that German and Yiddish are so similar, and that Germany is so close to Poland and Russia, only spurred German Jews in their desire for cultural separation. (5) A similar trend was at work in American Jewish culture. German-American Jews sought to differentiate themselves culturally, by assimilating further into WASP society; and religiously, by transforming their practice of Reform Judaism into high Classical Reform Judaism, sometimes referred to as "Cathedral Judaism." (6) Classical Reform Judaism is a uniquely American movement that was designed to "promote a distinctly awesome sense of the sacred" by reintroducing a sense of awe and grandeur into the liturgy of the service and into the architecture of synagogues' sacred spaces. (7)


Salem Fields Cemetery is a window into a previously unexplored part of American Jewish history. The cemetery's design reveals underlying questions and ideologies about identity and theology, and it reflects the ontological beliefs of this German-Jewish community as it carefully strove to define itself. Although historians have long studied cemeteries in order to explore the fears, hopes, and beliefs of those who came to be buried there, studies of Jewish cemeteries are rare. (8) Founded in 1851, Salem Fields was a top tourist destination at the turn of the twentieth century, but the cemetery is not well known today. Nonetheless, it is critical to understanding the history of Classical Reform Jews of that time, because for a community so outwardly polished, successful, and assimilated, its memorial art reveals a unique inner dialogue and tension over identity that is not usually apparent.

Congregation Emanu-El was the first Reform temple in New York, and today, its Romanesque Revival building is the largest Reform synagogue in the world. (9) Its cemetery is an important record not only of the congregation's history, but also of American Jewish culture--especially the taste, aspirations, and identity of Classical Reform Jews as they defined their place in American society. (10)


Congregation Emanu-El and the German-American Reform Style

In the early twentieth century, the members of Temple Emanu-El represented the peak of American Jewish assimilation, yet the aesthetic styles of their worship and memorial spaces reveal a complex relationship between their two competing identities: were they primarily American, or primarily Jewish? In the way they were designed, both Temple Emanu-El and the mausoleums in Salem Fields became arenas for this expression of religious and cultural identity.

In order to make sense of their design aesthetic, it is important to first understand the cultural factors governing German-American Jewish life at that time. Most German-Jewish immigration to the United States had happened in the mid-nineteenth century. Along with their Sephardi Jewish forerunners, these German-Jewish immigrants and their descendants assimilated relatively easily into Protestant American culture." Many German-American congregations like Temple Emanu-El, practiced Reform Judaism, a liberal rethinking of observance begun in Germany in the early nineteenth century, which modernized and updated ritual practice. (12) Many Emanu-El members were successful in business, although most still faced cultural antisemitism in America's Protestant-dominated social and business world. (13)


Many affluent members made their homes on Manhattan's Upper East Side, in sumptuously furnished townhouses, mansions, and apartments. For example, Benjamin Guggenheim, a prominent temple member and the brother of the art collector Solomon R. Guggenheim, built and lived in a handsome townhouse on East 72nd Street until his death in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The congregation also included Felix M. Warburg, whose stately 1908 French Chateau style mansion at 1109 Fifth Avenue now houses the Jewish Museum. These homes were outwardly indistinguishable from those of their gentile neighbors; indeed, in almost all ways, German-American Reform Jews blended into American Protestant culture.

Since its inception, Reform Judaism has struggled against defining its members as ethnically Jewish. In America, prominent nineteenth-century reformers such as the Jewish lay minister Isaac Leeser encouraged Jews to "eliminate distinctively Jewish habits of speech, gesture, and emotional expressiveness." (14) This translated to sacred ritual as well and, in many ways, Classical Reform Judaism approximated the high church ritual and feel of an Anglican or Episcopalian church. Worship services were conducted in English, with hymns and psalms sung by a choir. (15)


This ambivalence is visible in the design of contemporary synagogues, which were often elaborate and beautiful, but only discreetly Jewish. Because of their members' success in business and industry, many Reform congregations could afford to build grand new synagogues, with elegant architecture, stained glass, and mosaic interiors. These were often designed in revival styles, such as Romanesque, Gothic, and NeoMoorish. (16) Emanu-El moved locations several times in the nineteenth century as the congregation grew, and the current Romanesque Revival basilica (Figure 1) at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street was completed in 1929. When viewed from across the street, this is not an obviously Jewish building; it merely looks like a vaulted cathedral. Upon closer inspection, a small Hebrew inscription is visible by the door, but apart from the welcome sign, there is little else to mark this as a Jewish space. Inside is a sumptuous interior (Figures 2 and 3): a sanctuary of stained glass and elegant pews seating nearly twenty-five hundred people, a bimah (elevated platform) framed by glittering mosaics, and an ark flanked by two large seven-branched menorahs. Here is a synagogue that rejoices in its Jewish heritage, but that does so privately. This duality--a refined, Jewish inside and a refined, assimilated outside--is also at the forefront of many Salem Fields mausoleums.

The Material Culture of Salem Fields: Sources and Design Overview

Congregation Emanu-El was founded in 1845, and six years later the members bought twenty-five acres for a cemetery in Brooklyn. (17) Since then, the temple has gradually expanded the cemetery through the purchase of neighboring land, and it now encompasses roughly forty-five acres. (18) Salem Fields has always been owned exclusively by Emanu-El, and nearly all the memorials built there remain today. Families have always enjoyed complete control over the design of their memorials, which is reflected in the diversity of styles and art present in the mausoleums. Families bought their mausoleum plots in perpetuity, and were required to leave endowment funds to cover the exterior upkeep and landscaping costs. These mausoleums have survived remarkably well, and their architecture, mosaics, and stained glass have remained largely intact. (19)


The mausoleums in Salem Fields can be divided into two categories: standard, such as the one in figure 4, or custom-designed, such as the one in figure 5. While some of the largest and most elaborate mausoleums were designed by architects and furnished by leading artists, it is important to note that even an unremarkable one would have been extremely expensive because of the materials, art, and maintenance costs. (20) The vast majority of mausoleums at Salem Fields and similar cemeteries are in a standard size and shape--each containing eight crypts and measuring about ten feet wide, twelve feet deep, and fifteen feet tall. Often, the mausoleums have front steps leading up to their central doors, and these doors are usually cast bronze with open latticework (Figure 6). Inside each mausoleum is a narrow rectangular space, flanked on either side by a column of crypts in each wall (Figure 7), usually four per side. At Salem Fields, the back wall usually has a stained glass window. Although the designers and manufacturers for most of these mausoleums are unknown, most are similar enough to suggest an industry standard for size and shape.

Since ancient times, elites of many cultures have commissioned and built grand funerary monuments. The style of mausoleums and other memorials generally reflect the architectural trends of the time, and, in the mid-nineteenth century, American memorial art was dominated by historical revival styles. (21) In Salem Fields, most mausoleums are either Classical or Egyptian Revival in style (Figure 8). This is also true of nearby Christian cemeteries, such as Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, and neither faith seems to have been deterred from using pagan Greek, Roman, or Egyptian styles for its memorials. (22) Some older American Jewish cemeteries even moved to update their appearance in the nineteenth century by adding Egyptian motifs, such as the seventeenth-century Touro Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island, which added an Egyptian Revival arch in 1843. (23) In fact, in nineteenth-century Germany, ancient Egyptian motifs often adorned Jewish spaces because they were seen to embody "Jewish ancientness." (24) In Europe, some saw the Egyptian Revival as a "Jewish national style"--but most Americans in the early twentieth century simply saw it as a popular style of art. (25)


Aside from its mausoleums, Salem Fields contains a variety of monument types dating from its founding to the present day. There are hundreds of headstones in the cemetery, as well as about two hundred columbaria, which hold cremated remains. (26) Although traditionally, cremation is prohibited by Jewish law because of the belief in the resurrection of the dead and the rituals associated with dead bodies, the rejection of an embodied afterlife in Reform Jewish theology made cremation more acceptable. (27) There are other monument shapes at Salem Fields as well, which were often thematically tied to the deceased; for example, sculptures of broken columns and cut tree stumps commemorate those who died in the prime of their lives. (28)


Nearly all of the mausoleums at Salem Fields contain stained glass windows, and most of these depict landscapes made with the textured, swirling, opalescent art-glass technique popularized by Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge in the late nineteenth century. (29) Opalescent art glass is unlike the painted glass or solid-color sheet glass previously used in art glass; rather, it is a technique by which swirls of colored glass are folded together to create patterns within the glass itself. These landscapes were popular with Jewish patrons, whose religious laws forbade figural images in worship spaces. (30) Many of the windows depict rivers and lakes, which represent the flow of time and the passing of the deceased. (31) Cypress and poplar trees have symbolized mourning since ancient times, and depictions of these appear frequently in the windows. (32) Window imagery was also often linked to the deceased; for example, a window might depict a landscape at dawn for someone who died at a young age. This emphasis on personal experience and memory highlights the romantic and individualistic pulse present in memorial art in the late nineteenth century. (33)


Although these thematic motifs were also popular in non-Jewish cemeteries of the era, many mausoleums at Salem Fields also employ specifically Jewish designs and motifs, some relating to ritual mourning or liturgy. For example, consider the seven-branched menorah in figures 9 and 10, or the blessing hands of the kohanim, members of the priestly class, in figure 11. At the neighboring Beth Olam Cemetery of Congregation Shearith Israel, many windows depict an eternal flame. Some imagery that appears secular, such as the Egyptian Revival window in figure 12., may have held Jewish connotations in its time because of the common use of Moorish and Egyptian Revival themes in German Jewish and Reform synagogues. (34)


However rich in surviving objects, Salem Fields has little period documentation--apart from a few marks and signatures--about the specific architects, planners, and artists who designed this memorial art. It is also impossible to determine precisely when the mausoleums were built or designed. One cannot date them by simply looking at the earliest date of death for the people buried inside. Since mausoleums were extremely costly and could take years to construct, they were often designed and built years before anybody actually died. Others, however, were built long after the first death date listed, when a surviving child or spouse built a new mausoleum and reinterred a loved one's body.

Though these mausoleums and their furnishings are mute about their makers, they reveal much about the tastes, aspirations, and spirituality of their owners. Most significantly, they reveal themselves as liminal spaces: deathly homes and bridges between this world and the next.

'A Garden Consecrated to the Lord': Cemeteries between City and Country

At first glance, the map of Salem Fields Cemetery (Figure 13) looks like a city map: peaceful and ordered, in a curving grid. This is not a coincidence. The design for Salem Fields was influenced by two of the prevailing contemporary modes of cemetery design, the rural "garden cemetery" and the urban "city of the dead." (35) It was a place where the social factors governing life still very much applied beyond the grave, thus blurring the line between life and death. The layout of Salem Fields compounded this social system. Reflecting meticulous care and beautiful style, its design is like that of Manhattan, with long blocks, short blocks, and traffic circles. The result is effectively an equivalent of Temple Emanu-El's Upper East Side--where those with prestigious street addresses in life could seek the same in death. This grid design is unusual for contemporary garden cemeteries, such as Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery, which usually have long, curving drives that meander through the landscape, inviting visitors to linger. This hybrid design at Salem Fields creates a flowing, deliberate path while accommodating a great number of burial plots. This neat and structured design was indeed unusual, and perhaps speaks to the value placed on order and decorum in the German-Jewish high Classical Reform style.

In 1895, temple historians described how their cemetery was designed "systematically, with five [main] roads, well-ordered pathways, and beautiful alleys, and was stocked with plants and flowers ... [a] lovely garden consecrated to the Lord." (36) At Salem Fields, the grass, trees, asphalt roads, and ample space around each mausoleum create the feel of a leafy suburb (Figures 14 and 15). (37) A 1945 landscaping design plan for one mausoleum is laid out as if for a country house, with spaces for azaleas, magnolias, lilacs, dogwood trees, and boxwood hedges (Figure 16). There is a certain uniformity to the rows of mausoleums, which no doubt came with pressure to maintain a polished image; temple historians were proud to note that "no unsightly stone or fence [marred] the aesthetic sense." (38)


By 1852, when city officials outlawed burials in Manhattan, religious communities and secular groups had already begun buying acres of land for cemeteries in nearby rural Queens and Brooklyn. (39) The first separate, freestanding "city of the dead" had been established in Paris in 1765, when crowding and sanitation also forced burial outside the city. That cemetery, Fere Lachaise, was designed in an urban style, and it is filled with aboveground tombs and mausoleums. In Britain, cemeteries such as London's Kensal Green (1833) were situated in decorative gardens, dotted with trees, shrubs, and ponds. The North American rural cemetery movement embraced Britain's pastoral ideal, celebrating nature as a restorative antidote to urban illness and poverty. (40) In 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery was established in Cambridge, Massachusetts as America's first garden cemetery, and others, such as Laurel Hill in Philadelphia and Green-Wood in Brooklyn were established within the decade. (41) Early rural cemeteries in America were laid out with winding paths, manmade lakes and streams, and gentle hills. These peaceful places would later serve as prototypes for urban public parks.

Social Stratification from Life to Death

Once established, the rural cemetery became a second staging ground for social distinction and status competition. Although death is often considered to be a great equalizer, this is not always the case. Each cemetery had certain desirable and expensive areas, such as atop a hill, by a lake, or on a street corner. As the popularity of rural cemeteries grew, middle-class families bought plots well in advance and decorated them with plants, garden statues, and cast-iron furniture. (42) This social stratification perfectly fit the "social register jockeying" of Victorian life, as people who had competed against one another in life continued to do so in death. (43) As one contemporary commentator noted of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, "the cemetery is characteristic of the living city beyond. Wealth governs everything here as there." (44) People bought cemetery plots to be near their family and friends, creating sections segregated by wealth and rank. (45) As an 1866 New York Times article observed, "It is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in Central Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood." (46) In this regard, members of Temple Emanu-EI may have aspired to move from their worldly homes on Fifth Avenue to a deathly home on Faith Avenue, one of the central streets running through Salem Fields.

Rural garden cemeteries became popular tourist attractions, and Salem Fields was no exception. People visited famous graves, or simply brought a picnic and spent a day outside the city. The 1895 edition of The Leonard Manual of the Cemeteries of New York describes Salem Fields as "by far the leading and most important Jewish cemetery in the vicinity of New York ... therein are located some of the most artistic as well as costly monuments and family vaults to be found in any cemetery in the country." (47) As for the members of Temple Emanu-EI buried within, the Leonard Manual describes them as "the wealthiest and most influential Hebrew residents of the Metropolis," who cared deeply about maintaining an "attractive and impressive appearance" for their tombs. (48)


Other European-American communities also established mausoleums in their cemeteries, although the vogue for mausoleums appeared in different communities at different times. Protestant Christian cemeteries such as Woodlawn in the Bronx have mausoleums dating to the mid-nineteenth century. (49) Wealthy industrialists built mausoleums in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery from about 1880 to 1930. And although Bostonians have built crypts into the hillside at Mount Auburn Cemetery since the nineteenth century, nearly all the freestanding mausoleums there date after 1970 and belong to Orthodox Christian or Italian-American Catholic families. Most of the German-American Jewish mausoleums at Salem Fields date roughly between 1890 and 1945, and although it is still an active cemetery today, no new mausoleums have been built there for decades. If mausoleums are a means of conspicuous consumption, these date ranges make sense when considering when members of these various communities achieved economic success and prominence. Mausoleums are an ostentatious way of representing the fruits of hard work and success--the ultimate in self-congratulation for a nouveau riche generation.

A 1913 advertising pamphlet by Tiffany Studios' Ecclesiastical Department sheds further light onto this psychological impulse for a mausoleum. Tiffany Studios, which supplied designs, mosaics, and stained glass windows, encouraged its wealthy clients to spend: "To persons of considerable wealth, this form of memorial is commended, as affording a large field for the display of genius, originality, and artistic skill, as well as giving expression to a regard for the dead adequate in some measure to the unsparing devotion paid to them in their earthly homes." (50) The flattering language in this brochure plays to the status aspirations and insecurity of people who have worked hard to establish themselves in life, and who are uncertain about how such status would survive after their death. The advertisement presents mausoleums as natural extensions and second iterations of "earthly homes," and reinforces the notion that memorials are a legacy after death.

Most mausoleums at Salem Fields have eight crypts, enough to accommodate at least two generations, but many larger ones have anywhere from fifteen to forty vaults, amounting to a strong pressure from beyond the grave for subsequent generations to follow their parents or grandparents. Indeed, even though the children and grandchildren of the builders may have considered the construction of a new mausoleum flashy, many continue to be buried to this day inside their families' vaults. (51)


Like the furniture in the townhouses of Temple Emanu-El's members, the exterior and interior furnishings of their mausoleums served as stages for social differentiation and competition. While middling mausoleums might be furnished with casual wicker furniture (figure 17), objects in high-end mausoleums are usually made of marble or granite. Consider, for example, the marble table in figure 18, which is carved with veiled female mourners and the King James translation of Ecclesiastes 1:5--"The sun also ariseth ... and the sun goeth down." Many mausoleums were installed with exquisite Persian rugs on the floor, but these have been removed in the past few decades for conservation. Outside decoration also served to establish families within the social hierarchy. Depending on the size of the plot, some mausoleums are set back from the road, with granite or marble front steps and porches (Figure 19). For Emanu-El members, social bonds and competition translated easily from life to the grave.

A Theology of Afterlife in Garden Cemeteries

There is a theological element to garden cemeteries as well, as they seem to echo their congregations' beliefs about death and the afterlife. For nineteenth-century philosophers and romantics, rural cemeteries were thought of as liminal spaces between heaven and earth, death and life, nature and the city. (52) American Transcendentalist philosophers like Ralph Waldo Emerson were strong ideological backers of the garden cemetery movement, given their belief that God is keenly present in the natural world." A beautiful cemetery was thought to represent a beautiful death and a peaceful afterlife. In this way, the garden cemetery movement was a parallel to the contemporary City Beautiful movement, whose proponents sought to redesign American cities with wide and gracious boulevards, trees, and plants. These aesthetic improvements were thought to bring with them moral strength and civic harmony. For a cemetery, beautification promised not only civic harmony, but also theological rest and sanctification. (54)


Indeed, nineteenth-century American rural cemeteries were given soothing names evoking nature or religious notions of heaven. This was true for Christian cemeteries, such as Brooklyn's Green-Wood, whose founders selected the name in order to convey "a place of quiet repose... noble sentiments and refined taste, where healing truths abounded in rural quiet." (55) While many contemporary synagogues simply had eponymous cemeteries, the names of some nineteenth-century Jewish cemeteries also hint at the theology and identity of their congregations. The name "Salem Fields" links the cemetery to Jerusalem, claiming it as a Jewish space, while the English title reflects Emanu-El's identity as an integrated American congregation. The word "fields" subtly affirms a notion of the afterlife as a pastoral, garden paradise, suggesting that Emanu-El members found resonance with this idea despite the fact that the Reform movement officially rejected the notion of a heavenly "Garden of Eden." (56) Other Reform cemeteries in the area show a similar trend. For example, nearby Reform Congregation Rodeph Sholom's cemetery is named Union Field, which suggests a peaceful, Utopian garden paradise--even as its name eschews any reference to Judaism.

By contrast, the name of the nearby Orthodox Sephardic cemetery Beth Olam (house of eternity) confers a more serious, subdued vision of the hereafter. The name "Beth Olam" also echoes the notion of olam haba, the world to come, which is the traditional conception of life after death in Orthodox Judaism. Olam haba includes the two concepts of messiah and resurrection, both of which Reform Judaism rejects. (57) In their 1885 Pittsburgh Platform and 1937 Columbus Platform, leaders of the Reform movement flatly rejected bodily resurrection and wrote instead that they aspired toward a messianic age, thereby placing their trust in mankind to work toward this goal rather than relying on an individual messiah. (58)


Despite this, the Reform platforms upheld a belief in immortal souls--and as Orthodox author Rabbi Maurice Lamm wrote, "If the soul is immortal, then death cannot be considered a final act ... terrible though it is, death is a threshold into a new world, the 'World to Come.'" (59) Although the Reform platforms do not explicitly state a Reform vision for olam haba, their cemeteries reveal much about what they may have had in mind. With garden cemeteries and names like Salem Fields and Union Field, Reform congregations laid claim to a tangible afterlife rooted in the natural world--an aesthetically beautiful, quiet place, where family and friends were close at hand. The cemeteries themselves are the site of transition, the thresholds between this world and the world to come.

At Home with Death: Bringing Domestic Space into the Cemetery

The home-like furnishings in the Salem Fields mausoleums further contributed to their liminal feeling as places in between death and life. In effect, the furnishings were a way to domesticate death. The interior spaces inside the mausoleums give the impression of being neither inside nor outside. Made of cold, uninsulated marble, these are not warm or comfortable places, and yet they are arranged like houses, and many are furnished with the trappings of home (Figures 17 and 20). While this tie between home and cemetery may seem wholly out of place today, these two arenas were much more closely linked in late-nineteenth-century America. At that point, dying at home was thought to be ideal, a "good death." It seems that members of Temple Emanu-El sought to soften the blows of death and loss by incorporating domestic furnishings into their mausoleums.

At first glance, this may seem to have been motivated by a "you can take it with you" approach to wealth and death, eerily echoing the ancient Egyptians, but given that the furniture installed in most mausoleums was nothing fancier than simple patio furniture, this seems unlikely. Moreover, Salem Fields seems to be one of the few cemeteries where people furnished their mausoleums, although more exhaustive research remains to be done. Since families furnished their mausoleum interiors independently, it is difficult to determine the age and origin of the objects placed inside. It is likely that much has come and gone over the years. Also, those pieces of furniture that do remain are in vernacular traditions that are not easily datable.

Contemporary interior furnishing catalogues and monument trade magazines yield no advertisements for or specific references to memorial furniture. Indeed, there is nothing necessarily funerary about these furnishings. Rather, they were probably everyday items either bought expressly for the mausoleum or moved there from the owner's home. When one's family members have been interred in a cold, uninsulated marble house, it is a natural impulse to want to protect them with some comforts of home, even amid all the wealth of a mosaic or a stained glass window. This makes more sense when considering contemporary practices regarding death.

In the late nineteenth-century, when Temple Emanu-El members first began building mausoleums, death customs for American Protestants, Catholics, and Jews alike were centered on the home. (60) All who could afford to aspired to die at home; only the poor and indigent were admitted to hospitals. By many estimates, more than 85 percent of Americans could expect to die at home, ideally while resting comfortably in bed or on a couch, surrounded by family and friends. (61)


Death was such a familiar part of life, and so tied to domestic spaces, that after a loved one died, many nineteenth-century Americans sought to remember them by taking photos of the deceased at home. This nineteenth-century trend of postmortem photography may seem to us an eerie link between home and death, but at the time, it would have been a comfort. (62) Families would commission photographs of recently deceased loved ones, who were dressed and positioned at home, where they appeared to be gently at rest on a bed or sofa. These staged photographs were keepsakes for families as their loved ones entered "the last sleep." They are a visual reminder of this idealized home death, revealing a familiarity and intimacy with death and dead bodies that is anathema to modern culture today.

Yet, in a time when dying a "good death" meant dying at home, it seems wholly appropriate that families would decorate a mausoleum with home furnishings. While these furnishings seem out of place to a contemporary audience, it is important to consider a culture on its own terms, remembering that modern viewers usually lack a "period eye." (63) These practices help to provide a context for the emphasis on the Salem Fields' tombs as a domestic space.

Dying at home was not only respectable, but also theologically meaningful, since the means of death were believed to have clear repercussions for the fate of the deceased's soul. For American Christians, a comfortable and painless death confirmed a "quick passage to heaven"--a blessed relief for bereaved family and friends. (64) Domestic effects and furnishings became something of a mark of the elect, affirming a peaceful death and salvation. And a "good death" ensured that dying was not merely an event, but rather a "foundation for both spiritual and social immortality--for eternal life and lasting memory." (65) Even more strikingly, heaven was often imagined and referred to as a home itself. (66) It was believed that one would reconnect spiritually and bodily with family and friends in the afterlife, thereby renewing and reforming each person's home life and social circle. (67) The styling of tombs in the Salem Fields Cemetery as domestic spaces calls upon this tradition of an American good death.

During the Civil War, death touched Americans with unprecedented frequency and intimacy, and on the battlefield, all military chaplains--Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish--preached to their troops about a "better life" after death. (68) Many Jews likely shared their Christian neighbors' belief that they would reunite with family members after death. For example, in a letter to her sister in 1861, American Jewish philanthropist Rebecca Gratz, who was Orthodox, affirmed her belief that their deceased family members had been "resigned to the dispensation of the Almighty" and were certain to be "reunited in another world." (69)


Of course, American Jews and Protestants did not share the exact same views on the afterlife--and neither did Orthodox and Reform Jews. Traditional Judaism has upheld the theology of techiyat bametim, the bodily resurrection of the dead, since biblical times. (70) This resurrection is not immediate, but rather a promise that God will fulfill in the Messianic Age. In the nineteenth century, Reform Judaism rejected techiyat bametim, but affirmed a belief in the immortality of souls. However, the Reform rabbis did not elaborate on the implications of having an immortal soul. What fate remained for that soul? For an average congregant, whose level of theological nuance was likely only as great as what they heard from the pulpit, there may have been a void about what to believe about life after death. For assimilated Jews living in Victorian American culture, which was suffused with a romantic ideal of death and mourning, it is not unlikely that they simply absorbed much of their Protestant neighbors' feelings about death. Indeed, when considering the large family mausoleums at Salem Fields and other cemeteries, which housed generations of family members together, it is hard not to visualize them as the site of an eternal family reunion.

And although Reform theology ostensibly rejects heaven and hell, that is not exactly evident at Salem Fields. Consider the lush landscaping, furnishing, and artwork at the cemetery, with its family mausoleums that hint at reunions beyond the grave. Emanu-El members seem to have clearly embraced a vision of heaven--one where soothing and elegant mausoleums tend both to the memory of the dead and to the needs of the bereaved.

If anything, Emanu-El members seem to be rejecting the Orthodox Jewish notion of she'ol, a purgatory-like holding pen where all but the most righteous souls go after death. In she'ol, souls are held for up to a year in order to atone and to be purified before they enter into olam haba, the world to come. But there is no purgatory, no hint of grim atonement in Salem Fields. Instead, the Emanu-El memorials are optimistic and peaceful visions of death. They are places of smooth transition that cohere beautifully with the Reform movement's vision of an "immortal spirit" at peace.

For the mausoleums' patrons, what then did the tomb furnishings represent? Like other memorials, mausoleums serve as the last tangible representation of the deceased on this earth, and as such, they are the final focus point of memory and grief. They are the staging ground between life and death, between this world and the next. The physical spaces therefore represented a great deal. In Reform theology, a person's soul is immortal, but it seems unlikely that the souls were thought to be lingering around in the mausoleum itself. Nonetheless, if something eternal does live on in spirit, the furnishings suggest that families wanted to provide that spirit with the eternal comforts of a 'good death' at home. Both emotionally and physically, the furnishings transform the mausoleum into a more comfortable place to visit, and in this way they serve the needs of the mourners even more than they do the dead.

A Sacred Space within each Mausoleum

If rugs and chairs help to make the Salem Fields mausoleums domestic, the soft glow of stained glass in the dark turn them into sacred spaces. Since direct sunlight can wash out color, the perfect architectural environment for stained glass is a dark box such as a cathedral--or a mausoleum--where the only lighting sources are the windows themselves. Stained glass serves a dual purpose in creating sacred space. It spiritually inspires those within the room, while also blocking out distractions to keep the focus within. (71) Although stained glass had long been used primarily in Christian spaces, many American Jewish communities, including Congregation Emanu-El, began to install stained glass windows in their worship spaces in the late-nineteenth century. (72) At Salem Fields, the windows help to create a tranquil atmosphere within each mausoleum. The darkness of the room, lit only by the soft glow of light coming through the window, emphasizes the sacred feeling of each space. Ultimately, the interplay of domestic furnishings and stained glass yields a space that is inviting and peaceful, both this-worldly and other-worldly. It is a liminal space between a person's home life and the afterlife, a space between a mortal body and an immortal soul.

The home-like interiors of the mausoleums also provided a more private space for the kind of mourning that became popular in early-twentieth-century America. With the first and second World Wars came an increasing and overwhelming level of injury, disease, and death. Spurred by necessity and shifting cultural mores, the act of dying shifted from home to the hospital. If nineteenth-century America had embraced a romantic ideal of mourning, American culture in the mid-twentieth century preferred to ignore death, dying, and grief altogether. (73) Mourning came to be seen as indecent and embarrassing, and the custom of public mourning was abandoned. The mausoleum interiors at Salem Fields offer a space to mourn privately instead. Despite the general decrease in mourning ritual, these interior spaces are maintained and preserved beautifully for future generations to visit, no matter how mourning customs continue to change. As time goes on, one may only assume that each passing generation will be less attached to the family mausoleum. Family members move away, and visitors come less and less frequently. And yet, to visit a mausoleum is to connect with something beyond the ordinary world.

In practice, visiting a mausoleum is a profoundly different experience from visiting a grave. One can visit a gravestone and walk away seconds later, but visiting a mausoleum is a greater commitment, one that begins with unlocking a door and crossing a threshold. Visitors then find themselves in an enclosed room. The furnishings inside offer some clues as to what one can and cannot do on a visit. There are chairs, so one can sit. Some have tables and chairs together. Cemetery staff members offer prayer books to visitors, and many of these are left inside the mausoleums for future visits. Many mausoleums have vases, but these are usually empty. Do visitors bring flowers? Do they instead leave stones, the customary Jewish memorial marker when visiting a grave? (74) How long should visitors stay? Do they dust or sweep the room? Can they eat there? Can they make a phone call? Each person's practice may be different.

To sit, contemplate, and remember in the privacy of a mausoleum are actions that must provoke different reactions in different people. When they are ready to leave, visitors pull open the heavy stone door, cross the threshold once more, and lock the door behind them. This ritualized process of visiting--ascending the stairs, unlocking and opening the door, entering the mausoleum and visiting; and then leaving the mausoleum, closing and locking the door, and descending the stairs--lends visitors a sense of closure. The visit is a complete act: at once private and public, outside and inside, sacred and familiar. As the practice of public mourning faded, having a private space to grieve and visit with the deceased must have been a welcome relief for the bereaved. Such privacy would have been impossible at a graveside.

The internal privacy of a mausoleum also provided a quiet haven for the Jews of Temple Emanu-El to live out a dual identity as both culturally assimilated Americans and Jews. Considering the fact that Orthodox Jewish law requires that bodies be physically buried underground, it is fruitful to take a step back and consider the environment that produced a cemetery full of Jewish mausoleums.

Jewish Americans, American Jews

Members of Temple Emanu-El, like those of many German-American . Reform congregations, prized an aesthetic that privately dignified and honored their Jewish heritage, even as they outwardly assimilated into the dominant Protestant American culture. A similar trend was at work in their memorial art. While many of the mausoleums at Salem Fields do not engage the patron's Jewish heritage at all, some do, but this is usually discreet, with interior decorative motifs. These are seen most clearly in three of the elaborate, custom-made mausoleums (A, B, and C).

In Mausoleum A, the somber granite exterior belies a richly colorful interior, worthy of a Byzantine chapel. The hexagonal exterior structure opens into a faceted chamber of veined marble, crowned by a mosaic dome of bright blue stone, multicolored roundels, silver stars, and gold borders (Figure 21). The top of the dome is secured by a cast copper roundel decorated with scrolls and anthemion leaves. This glittering space is home to only two tombs, which are set partially into a niche. In the back wall is a large, custom-designed, stained glass window, in which angular flowers and geometric shapes surround three circular panes (Figure 10). The top roundel depicts two rampant lions supporting the tablets of the Ten Commandments, which are surmounted by a crown. The central roundel contains a lit, seven-branched menorah in a knobbed, antique style, and the bottom roundel depicts a stylized eagle with wings outstretched, in a nest with three eaglets. The lions echo the tribe of Judah, a powerful tribe of Ancient Israel that counted King David among its members. This heraldic imagery--a pair of rampant lions supporting the Ten Commandments and a crown--is not uncommon on luxury pieces of Judaica, such as Torah curtains or cases. (75) The eagle is an American bald eagle, representing the second part of the family's pride and identity. This window is unusual at Salem Fields. Instead of an opalescent landscape, it has a deliberate iconography.

Mausoleum B is also unusual for the symbolism in its stained glass windows. The exterior of the structure is geometric art deco, and a series of steps lead up to a porch, decorated with vases, planters, and benches. Inside, the back wall has two columns of five crypts, flanking a central niche and table. There are stained glass windows on the back and two sides of the mausoleum. Beneath each side window is a marble bench. The central stained glass window, figure 22, consists of red, yellow, blue, and green geometric shapes surrounding a gold, seven-branched menorah in the same antique style as the window in Mausoleum A. On the left and right walls are two more stained glass windows, nearly identical to the central one, but with different iconography. On the left window, geometric shapes surround an eagle with outstretched wings, and the window on the right shows two hands with fingers spread in a V-shape, the sign of the ancient priestly benediction of the kohanim (Figure 11).

Members of the kohen lineage, descendants of Aaron, served as the high priests; they alone could enter the inner sanctum of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is not unusual for kohen descendants and their families to include this blessing-hand imagery on their tombstones or memorials. (76) Just as the owners of Mausoleum A linked themselves to the kingly tribe of Judah by including lions in their stained glass window, the owners of Mausoleum B honored their religious heritage by including blessing hands on their windows.

Mausoleum C is unique in its interior layout. It is a tall hexagonal structure with cast bronze doors, which are composed of a classical wreath and crossed palm fronds. Inside, steps lead down to the main floor. Rising on all sides are tall white marble walls divided by dark green granite pilasters (Figure 23). The five interior walls, housing seven or ten vaults alternately, are seamlessly carved to resemble draped fabric. Whether the carving is meant to evoke a funeral shroud or domestic window hangings, the effect of hard, cold stone imitating soft, warm fabric is striking. The clerestory level of each wall has, alternately, three additional vaults or two small orange glass windows that allow in a soft light. There are no stained glass windows, but the hexagonal ceiling is composed of perhaps the most intricate mosaic decoration of any mausoleum at Salem Fields (Figures 24 and 25). Each of six ceiling sections contains a mosaic depicting a sword, a ribbon, and the Latin word "PAX," plus one verse of Psalm 23 in the King James translation: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ... " Beneath the words of the psalm, each ceiling panel also contains a scroll with a Greek key border, depicting one word of the standard opening to every Hebrew prayer, translated as "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe." Curiously, there is a misspelling in one of the Hebrew words (Figure 25). Since it appears at the end of a word, the last letter on the word bet-resh-khaf should be a final khaf, to properly spell baruch. While it is unsurprising that the craftsmen did not catch the mistake, it is significant that the patrons either did not notice this or did not bother to have it corrected. Perhaps they figured that no visitors would catch it either.

With its Latin "PAX," Greek key, scrolls, and classical swords and ribbons, the decorative scheme in Mausoleum C underscores the archaic tone created by the King James version of the psalm, whose anachronistic phrasing in turn recalls the language of the Classical Reform Union Prayer Book. Indeed, throughout the cemetery, representations of Jewish artifacts and symbols tend to reference antiquity. The candelabra in Mausoleums A and B are significant in this regard. While nine-branched menorahs have grown to symbolize Judaism through the festival of Hanukkah, the seven-branched menorah is different. This one represents the candelabrum mandated for the biblical tabernacle in Exodus. (77) These seven-branched menorahs were common in Reform temple decorations in the twentieth century, as congregations sought to align themselves with what they saw as a golden age of free and dignified Judaism in the antique and classical periods. (78) Temple Emanu-El has two freestanding, seven-branched menorahs on the bimah alone (Figure 3), and many more appear elsewhere in the building as decorative motifs. At Salem Fields, these antique-styled, seven-branched menorahs appear in other places as well--in several stained glass windows (such as figure 9) and, in one rare outward display, cast in bronze and surrounded by classical putti atop the entrance to the mausoleum in figure 26.

In Mausoleums A and B, the antiquity of the menorahs serve to link both families to an ancient lineage, adding extra weight to the heraldic lions, the crown, and the hands of the kohanim. The antique style and classical references in the ceiling mosaic and carved wall shrouds of Mausoleum C serve a similar purpose. Just as the medieval gothic style was revived as an English national style in the nineteenth century, Reform Jews revived symbols of ancient Israel in order to assert their cultural and religious heritage. (79) This aim is in keeping with the goals of the American Classical Reform movement. Through the formal and archaic language of the liturgy in its Union Prayer Book, the sweeping architecture of its temples, and the deracination of its culture and worship, Classical Reform sought to replace ethnic Ashkenazic Orthodoxy with what it saw as the splendor and dignity that Judaism had attained in antiquity. (80)


In a similar way, the stained glass techniques in Mausoleums A and B also seek to link their patrons with an earlier time. These windows are composed of small pieces of brightly colored glass, a mosaic style more akin to the medieval method of stained glass production than to the contemporary nineteenth-century opalescent glass landscapes found in other mausoleums. Like the classically styled seven-branched menorahs, these archaic-style windows add extra weight and history to the memorial's cultural significance. The classically styled mosaic in Mausoleum C achieves a similar purpose.

Many scholars have written about how memorials and tomb decorations can reveal the deep-seated religious beliefs and cultural self-esteem of a community. (81) From their choice in memorials and decorations, which represent the ultimate luxury in contemporary artistic style and expense, it is clear that the members of Temple Emanu-El buried at Salem Fields were confidently assimilated and successful Americans. However, outward displays of Jewish symbols were not part of their culture. Just as congregants' earthly homes mirrored those of their Protestant neighbors, very little in the exterior design of Temple Emanu-El marks it as explicitly Jewish.

Most of the mausoleums at Salem Fields are similarly discreet in their displays of Jewish symbols. Although some modest mausoleums include Hebrew names on the tombs inside, or an occasional Jewish motif in stained glass, it is worthwhile to note that explicit nods to Judaism are found mostly in the larger, more elaborate mausoleums. (81) Even then, most of these markers are discreet, and subtly done on the interior. Several possible conclusions may be drawn from this. First, it may be that in order to maximize their market, the manufacturers of generic stained glass memorials did not routinely offer windows with symbols of a religious minority. Jewish motifs may therefore have been simply unavailable to those shopping for premade windows. Windows like those in Mausoleums A and B would have required custom designs and specialized production.

But equally likely, this may have been a learned protective reflex for this religious minority. German-American Reform Jews lived a double life in the early twentieth century. On the one hand, they were assimilated, successful Americans. But on the other hand, they were also proud Jews who tried to maintain their culture and heritage in the face of subtle and overt antisemitism in the upper class American Protestant society they aspired to join. Discrimination was particularly fierce in the first half of the twentieth century, when antisemitism alternately took the form of anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, anti-German, or anti-Soviet hatred. (83) The Classical Reform Judaism practiced at Emanu-El is the very hallmark of this protective duality. The synagogue is cathedral-like and formal, meant to blend into the religious landscape of Christian churches. Yet, on the inside, the congregation went to great lengths to exhibit a dignified, traditional form of observance. It is not surprising that this defensive response of being at once proud of one's heritage, while downplaying it for a WASP-dominated society, would be carried into memorial art.

Salem Fields represents this ambivalence of identity. Did the members of Emanu-El consider themselves first and foremost American Jews, or Jewish Americans? The cemetery became an arena for identity performance, where this question played out. Ultimately, the cultural pressures of the time pushed them to keep their faith private.

On Time and Memory

Though they commemorate ephemeral lives, grave monuments of all kinds are meant to be strong and permanent. With their stone and glass structures, mausoleums are substantial, and they are about memory. Living people, in anticipation of a future time when they hope others will look back and remember them, create them. This anticipatory nostalgia, this planning in advance for memory, is often futile, since the way one will be remembered is ultimately beyond anyone's control. Yet, as cemetery historian Douglas Keister has written, "you only have one chance to make a last impression." (84) Mausoleums offer, therefore, one of the last grasps of control a person can muster. As long as the cemetery exists, only nature, decay, and the unyielding march of time will alter the exterior appearance of memorials. (85) Grave markers and memorial facades are constantly being worn down by the elements. A mausoleum interior, then, is one of the few parts of a memorial where time passes unnoticed, resisting change except by human intervention.

A family mausoleum is in some ways similar to and different from its parallel, the family burial plot. A mausoleum is a private family unit, yet the bodies are eternally alone, each within its vault. In a family plot, everybody is at least buried under the same soil. With burial in the ground, one is fulfilling the biblical directive: ashes to ashes and dust to dust. In a mausoleum, in a hermetically sealed, metal-lined coffin, this will literally never happen. Time will pass, but the body will never return to the earth. At this "eternal family reunion," each body remains forever alone. In comparison to a richly ornamented mausoleum, being buried outside under a tombstone may seem exposed and uncivilized. But where is the dignity inside a mausoleum? Despite any ethereal, moving, or meditative art, despite any lounges, chairs, or Persian rugs, the interior of a mausoleum is inevitably dark, cold, and lonely. The structure is the enduring memory, while the bodies are neatly locked away. In theory and in execution, these are spaces designed to please the living, not the dead. A family mausoleum is inherently hard to read, because it represents, at best, the feelings and tastes of the generation that built it, even though several successive generations may also be buried there.

Although one hundred years have passed since some of these monuments were built, there is yet much to learn from them. In theory and practice, Salem Fields was a liminal place, each mausoleum a site of transition. The cemetery was effectively a second Manhattan, a place where one's wealth and status in life translated seamlessly into death. Stained glass windows, whether depicting landscapes or antique religious heraldry, create a transformative feeling of a part-domestic, part-religious space--one that is cultured, assimilated, and Jewish all at once. A family's impulse to domesticate death by domesticating its mausoleum is understandable, given the culture's familiarity with death, and the cultural and theological ideal of a "good death" at home. A furnished mausoleum straddles life and death, this world and the next.

Through its subtleties of faith and design, the memorials at Salem Fields guided the deceased and bereaved alike through a series of transitions: between life and death, city and country, earthly homes and deathly ones. Through its liminality, Salem Fields Cemetery stands as a gateway between this world and the world to come.

(1.) I gratefully acknowledge Dr. Kenneth Ames, Dr. David Jaffee, Dr. Gabrielle Berlinger, Warren Klein, Elka Deitsch, and Robert J. Ilasi for their research support, guidance, and edits on my master of arts thesis, on which this article is based: See Sophia C. Lufkin, "From Fifth Avenue to Faith Avenue: Mausoleum Design and Decoration at Temple Emanu-El's Salem Fields Cemetery, 1890-1945" (master's thesis, The Bard Graduate Center, Z014).

(2.) For a complete history of the temple, see Ronald B. Sobel, "A History of New York's Temple Emanu-EI: The Second Half Century" (PhD diss., New York University, 1980).

(3.) Meyer Stern, The Rise and Progress of Reform Judaism: Embracing a History Made from the Official Records of Temple Emanu-EI of New York, with a Description of Salem Field Cemetery, its City of the Dead, with Illustrations of its Vaults, Monuments, and Landscape Effects (Rahway: Mershon Company Press, 1895), 13, 31.

(4.) For a complete history of the temple buildings and congregations merger, see Ronald Sobel, "A History of New York's Temple Emanu-El."

(5.) For an exploration of this theme, see John M. Efron, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 5-9.

(6.) Lawrence A. Hoffman, "Synagogues and American Spirituality," in Synagogue Architecture in America: Faith, Spirit & Identity, eds., Henry Stolzman and Daniel Stolzman (Mulgrave: Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd, 2016), 80.

(7.) Ibid., 79.

(8.) For example, see James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 89-124, and David Charles Sloane, The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 6.

(9.) Temple Emanu-El has the largest seating capacity. See Ronald B. Sobel, "The Congregation: A Historical Perspective," in A Temple Treasury: The Judaica Collection of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, ed., Cissy Grossman (New York: Hudson Hills, 1989), 4.

(10.) For a history of the Classical Reform movement, see Michael A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 2.64-95.

(11.) Many Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition moved to Amsterdam, as well as to Portuguese and Dutch colonies in South America and the Caribbean. It was the descendants of these Sephardic Jews who arrived first in New Amsterdam in the seventeenth century. See Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 1-19.

(12.) For a thorough history of the German and American Reform movements, see Meyer, Response to Modernity.

(13.) Sarna, American Judaism, 2.16, 219-22.

(14.) Hoffman, "Synagogues and American Spirituality," 79.

(15.) While it is true that Jewish communities have informally studied and prayed in vernacular languages for thousands of years, liturgy has always been in Hebrew, much like the historical use of Latin in the Catholic Church. Just as the Protestant Reformation sought to make Christianity more accessible by conducting services in the vernacular instead of in Latin, American Reform services in the mid-nineteenth century were conducted largely in English or German. This allowed a generation of Jews to participate even though they had not learned Hebrew.

(16.) Both in Germany and America, historical-revival synagogues were often modeled after recent archeological findings from Egypt and the Near East, in order to link modern Jews to the ancient Israelites and other Ancient Near Eastern peoples. As historian John Efron writes, the aim was to depict Jews not as an "isolated, small, parochial tribe," but rather as part of an ancient group of civilizations, which attested to their heritage and, apparently, to their ease of assimilation and dialogue with other cultures. See Efron, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic, 112-60.

(17.) Stern, The Rise and Progress of Reform Judaism, 13, 31.

(18.) When Congregation Emanu-EI merged with Congregation Beth-El in 192.7, their cemeteries were also joined. As a result, Emanu-El now also owns nearby Beth-El Cemetery.

(19.) Most of the stained glass windows originally installed in the mausoleums remain there today. In the 1980s and 1990s, Salem Fields, along with other area cemeteries, was the target of a string of stained glass window thefts. Although a number of these windows have been recovered, many were damaged during the theft. For security and conservation reasons, the recovered windows were not reinstalled. Thirty-one additional windows were preemptively removed from their mausoleums in the 1990s to protect them against potential theft. For security reasons, and to protect family privacy, identifying family names have been blurred out of all photographs here, and all mausoleums are referred to anonymously.

(20.) Some families who commissioned grand mausoleums at Salem Fields likely worked with architects and decorators to design custom interiors and exteriors, just as they had done for their town and country houses. This was common practice for America's early-twentieth-century elite. For example, architect Louis Sullivan designed a number of mausoleums in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, including the Getty family tomb. See Kenneth T. Jackson and Camilo Jose Vergara, Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 80.

(21.) For a thorough discussion of revival styles in memorial art, see Peggy McDowell and Richard E. Meyer, The Revival Styles in American Memorial Art (Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994).

(22.) For a discussion of ancient pagan motifs in American Protestant cemeteries, see Colleen McDannell, "The Religious Symbolism of Laurel Hill Cemetery," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 111 (July 1987): 278.

(23.) See Diana Muir Appelbaum, "Jewish Identity and Egyptian Revival Architecture," Journal of Jewish Identities 5 (July 2012): 11-12.

(24.) Napoleon's 1798 invasion and "rediscovery" of Egypt sparked a European "Egyptomania," a widespread fascination with ancient Egyptian architecture that pervaded architecture and the decorative arts. See Appelbaum, "Jewish Identity and Egyptian Revival Architecture," 3. See also James Stevens Curl, The Egyptian Revival: Ancient Egypt as the Inspiration for Design Motifs in the West (London: Routledge Publishers, 2005).

(25.) Appelbaum, "Jewish Identity and Egyptian Revival Architecture," 21.

(26.) Columbaria represent another break from Orthodox precedent, since cremation is not permissible by Orthodox Jewish law.

(27.) For more on the Judaism and cremation debates, see the current scholarship of Adam Ferziger of the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. This includes Adam S. Ferziger, "Ashes to Outcasts: Cremation, Jewish Law, and Identity in Early Twentieth-Century Germany," AJS Review 36, no. 1 (2012): 71-102.

(28.) For an exhaustive field guide to cemetery symbolism, see Douglas Keister, Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2004).

(29.) Although several mausoleum stained glass windows at Salem Fields are signed and dated by Tiffany Studios, the majority are unsigned and undated, and likely came from a range of artists working in a similar style. For a thorough description of contemporary stained glass-making techniques, see Lindsy R. Parrott, "Unimaginable Splendors of Color: Tiffany's Opalescent Glass," in Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion, ed. Patricia C. Pongracz (London: D. Giles, Ltd., 2012), 87-113.

(30.) Nineteenth-century American Protestants were also wary of incorporating iconic imagery into their memorial designs. In Laurel Hill Cemetery, for example, Protestants in the second half of the nineteenth century tended to restrict their iconography to crosses, books, and angels. See McDannell, "The Religious Symbolism of Laurel Hill Cemetery," 292.

(31.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Louis Comfort Tiffany at The Metropolitan Museum of Art," The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 56 (Summer 1998): 32.

(32.) Congregation Emanu-EI of the City of New York, Greenwald Hall Stained Glass Windows (New York: Congregation Emanu-EI, 1997), 2.

(33.) Parrott, "Unimaginable Splendors of Color," 120.

(34.) See Appelbaum, "Jewish Identity and Egyptian Revival Architecture," and Efron, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic.

(35.) Stern, The Rise and Progress of Reform Judaism, 32.

(36.) Ibid., 32.

(37.) Ironically, perhaps, the layout of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn served as a model for the planners of future twentieth-century suburban communities. See Jeffrey I. Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery: New York's Buried Treasure (Concord: Capital Offset, 2008), 10.

(38.) Stern, The Rise and Progress of Reform Judaism, 201.

(39.) Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 4. In 1823, New York City voted to outlaw burial south of Canal, Sullivan, and Grand streets. By 1851, it was illegal to conduct a burial south of 86th Street, and, in 1852, burials were outlawed on the entire island. Notable exceptions are the New York Marble Cemetery and the New York City Marble Cemetery, established in Lower Manhattan in 1830 and 1831, respectively. These cemeteries consist of marble vaults sunk into the ground, and city officials approved them because the hermetic seal of the marble stopped bodily decomposition and therefore halted the spread of disease. For more on marble cemeteries, see Casey Mathern, "Sepulture and the City: The Marble Cemeteries of New York" (master's thesis, The Bard Graduate Center, 2013).

(40.) Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 5.

(41.) For an exploration of the religious motifs and history of Laurel Hill Cemetery, see McDannell, "The Religious Symbolism of Laurel Hill Cemetery." On Green-Wood Cemetery, see Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.

(42.) Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 16.

(43.) Kenneth L. Ames, "Ideologies in Stone: Meanings in Victorian Gravestones," the Journal of Popular Culture 9 (Spring 1981): 653.

(44.) Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 16.

(45.) McDowell and Meyer, The Revival Styles in American Memorial Art, 15.

(46.) This is quoted in Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 16.

(47.) J. H. Leonard, The Leonard Manual of the Cemeteries of New York and Vicinity: A Handy Guide (New York: J. H. Leonard, 1895), 99

(48.) Ibid., 99.

(49.) For a full study of Woodlawn Cemetery and those buried there, see Edward Bergman, Woodlawn Remembers: Cemetery of American History (Utica: North Country Books, 1988).

(50.) Tiffany Studios Ecclesiastical Department, Memorials in Glass and Stone (New York: Tiffany Studios, 1913), 54.

(51.) This may help explain why new generations did not build new structures, as there was ample space in existing family mausoleums.

(52.) Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 7.

(53.) See, for example, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (Boston: James Monroe and Company, 1836). For Protestants, this peaceful attitude toward death was part of a strong reaction against the relative "theological gloom" of the eighteenth-century Calvinist doctrine of predestination. See Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 7.

(54.) See William H. Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), 1994.

(55.) Richman, Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, 7.

(56.) This is as stated in the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform. See discussion in the section below, "At Home with Death."

(57.) For a summary of traditional Jewish views on the olam baba, see Maurice Lamm, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 1969), 226.

(58.) In the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, Reform Jewish leaders took the following stance:


(59.) Lamm, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, 222.

(60.) Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), 9.

(61.) Ibid., 9-10.

(62.) For a thorough history on nineteenth-century American postmortem photography, see Jay Ruby, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (Boston: The MIT Press, 1995).

(63.) Michael Baxandall pioneered the discussion of the "period eye"--the attention to social nuances of an age, without which modern viewers cannot be competent interpreters of past cultures. See Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style (London: Oxford Paperbacks, 1972).

(64.) Faust, This Republic of Suffering, 14, 22, 62.

(65.) Ibid., 163.

(66.) See, for example, William Branks, Heaven Our Home (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883), 5-6. Branks endorses the notion of a "social heaven... a home, with a great and happy and loving family in it."

(67.) Faust, This Republic of Suffering, 180.

(68.) Ibid., 8.

(69.) Rebecca Gratz, "Letter to Ann Boswell Gratz, Sept. 12, 1861," in Letters of Rebecca Gratz, ed., David Philipson (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 192.9), 427. For a Christian perspective on Jewish belief, see Henry Harbaugh, "The Heavenly Recognition Among the Jews," The Heavenly Recognition; or, An Earnest and Scriptural Discussion of the Question, Will we Know Our Friends in Heaven? (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blackiston, 1865), 85-115.

(70.) For a thorough history of Jewish and Christian notions of resurrection, see Jon D. Levenson and Kevin Madigan, Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

(71.) For a discussion of the nineteenth-century stained glass installation in the Neue Synagogue in Berlin, see Efron, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic, 154. See also Henry Stolzman and Daniel Stolzman, "Faith, Spirit, and Identity," in Synagogue Architecture in America: Faith, Spirit, & Identity, eds., Henry Stolzman and Daniel Stolzman (Australia: The Images Publishing Group, 2004), 67.

(72.) In a smaller chapel near the main sanctuary, Temple Emanu-El has a large, magnificent window commissioned from Tiffany in 1899. For a description and thorough analysis of this window, see Elka Deitsch, "Translations in Light: The May Memorial Window at Temple Emanu-El, New York," in Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion, ed., Patricia C. Pongracz (London: D. Giles, Ltd., 2012), 185-93. For contemporary insight into stained glass in diverse worship spaces, see William H. Low, "Old Glass in New Windows," Scribner's Magazine 4 (December 1888): 675.

(73.) See Philippe Aries, The Hour of Our Death: The Classic History of Western Attitudes Toward Death over the Last One Thousand Years, trans., Helen Weaver (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 575-80. For changing trends in American attitudes toward death, especially during 1950-1980, see Jessica Mitford, The American Way of Death, Revisited (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998).

(74.) While cut flowers wither and die, stones represent a longer-lasting tribute to the deceased. It is Jewish custom to leave a small stone on or by the grave after each visit.

(75.) See, for example, Grossman, A Temple Treasury, 6z, 65.

(76.) See, for example, Jackson and Vergara, Silent Cities, 56.

(77.) Exodus 25:31-40.

(78.) Grossman, A Temple Treasury, 79.

(79.) For a discussion of the British nationalistic impulses in nineteenth-century medievalism and the Gothic Revival, see: Paul Atterbury, ed., A.W.N. Pugin, Master of Gothic Revival, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 84.

(80.) The styles at Salem Fields seem much more simpatico with those at the neighboring Sephardic cemetery, Beth Olam Cemetery of Shearith Israel, than with Ashkenazic Orthodox notions of style and iconography. While halakhically observant, Sephardic Jews have customs that are culturally different from those of Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews. There are many mausoleums at Beth Olam, but these, too, would be anathema at a traditional Ashkenazic Orthodox cemetery because of the halakhic prescription that bodies must be buried in the ground.

(81.) See, for example, McDowell and Meyer, The Revival Styles in American Memorial Art, 4; and Sloane, The Last Great Necessity.

(82.) Interestingly, the mausoleums at nearby Beth Olam Cemetery have many eternal flame motifs on the stained glass windows inside, although these are largely absent from the stained glass windows at Salem Fields. Perhaps that community had different customs or sources for their art; the difference is difficult to explain.

(83.) Sarna, American Judaism, 216-17.

(84.) Douglas Keister, Stories in Stone: New York. A Field Guide to New York City Area Cemeteries & Their Residents (Layton: Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2011), 5.

(85.) Of course, cemeteries can by razed and memorials can be demolished. The gateway at New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery reads, "The Dead Shall Be Raised"--and one might add, as the old joke goes, "...when Yale needs the land."

Caption: Figure 1. Temple Emanu-El, New York City. Photo courtesy of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. Photo by Brian Rose.

Caption: Figures 2 and 3. Temple Emanu-El interior. Photos courtesy of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. Photos by Brian Rose.

Caption: Figure 4. Standard sized mausoleum at Salem Fields Cemetery. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 5. Custom-designed mausoleum, Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 6. Cast bronze mausoleum door, Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 7. Mausoleum interior, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 8. Egyptian Revival mausoleum, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 9. Stained glass window in Mausoleum B, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 10. Stained glass window inside a mausoleum, Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 11. Stained glass window in a mausoleum, Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 12. Stained glass window in Mausoleum A, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 13. Map of Salem Fields Cemetery. Archives, Salem Fields Cemetery. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 14. Row of mausoleums, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 15. Mausoleum at Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 16. Planting plan for mausoleum at Salem Fields, ca.1945. Archives, Salem Fields Cemetery. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 17. Mausoleum interior, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 18. Mausoleum interior, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 19. Mausoleum at Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 20. Mausoleum interior, Salem Fields. Photo by Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 21. Interior of Mausoleum A, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 22. Stained glass window in Mausoleum B, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 23. Interior of Mausoleum C, Salem Fields. Photo by author.

Caption: Figure 24. Mosaic ceiling of Mausoleum C, Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 25. Detail of mosaic ceiling in Mausoleum C, Salem Fields. Photo courtesy of Warren Klein.

Caption: Figure 26. Mausoleum at Salem Fields. Photo by author.
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Author:Lufkin, Sophia C.
Publication:American Jewish History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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