The Erste Wielkie-Oczer K.U.V. Landsmanshaft
From wherever they came, Jewish immigrants to the United States established social organizations to help them get by the loneliness and difficult times that often greeted them in America. These associations, societies or landsmanshaftn evolved over time and served many purposes, not the least of which was to provide health and burial benefits.
What motivated these immigrants was perhaps best summed up by the American professor and author Irving Howe in his World of Our Fathers when he wrote:
On October 24, 1903 the Erste Wielkie-Oczer K.U.V. (Kranken Untershtitsn Varayn) was founded by landsleit from Wielkie Oczy to—among other things, we must assume—provide its members with the wherewithal to overcome illness and the means to have a proper Jewish burial. Thus, in February, 1904 the society purchased graves at the Mt. Zion Cemetery (Path 34 right, Gate 17) in Maspeth, NY. Later, more graves were purchased at the Mt. Hebron Cemetery (Section 36, Path 11) in Flushing, New York, and still later additional graves were purchased at Beth Israel Memorial Park (Block 10B) in Woodbridge, New Jersey
In 1998, 2001 and 2009 separate surveys were completed of all headstones at Mt. Zion, Mt. Hebron and Beth Israel cemeteries. Names, birth dates and death dates have been recorded.
In order to respect the privacy of families whose Wielkie Oczy forebears are buried at Mt. Zion and Mt. Hebron, we list here only family names. More detailed information from the aforementioned survey can be provided to family researchers on request.
According to the records of the New York State Department of Insurance, the Erste Wielkie-Oczer K.U.V. ceased to exist and was liquidated on August 29, 1984. When the society was thus placed in receivership, any unreserved grave sites were turned back to the cemeteries for resale, so it is possible that some internments, particularly for those after 1984 are not for members of the society or their families. This is particularly true for Beth Israel, but less so or perhaps not at all for Mt. Zion and Mt. Hebron, since we can assume that most if not all grave sites were reserved for members or their families.
At Mt. Zion an elaborate stone archway marks the entrance to the society's section (pictured above), and at Mt. Hebron stone gate-posts (one of which is pictured below) stand at the entrance to the section of the graves of Wielkie Oczy landsleit and their families along with the headstones of those buried there. Those names etched in the stone gate-posts, perhaps the names of officers at the time the posts were erected at Mt. Hebron, are reproduced below:
In 1965, the society erected pillars fronting a section of graves it had purchased at Beth Israel Memorial Park in Woodbridge, NJ. This was the last cemetery section the society purchased.
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