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‘Restoring Honor Campaign’ complete, endowment funds now being raised

Members of the Friends of Sheffield board of directors gathered last month to celebrate the completion of the ‘Restoring Honor Campaign.’ Seated are Rita Shapiro (from left), Barb Stras, Jackie Kraft, Judy Lanes, Ted Seligson, Dr. Edward Haith, Regina Pachter. Back Row: Anne Bratt, Gertie Epstein, Chuck Heaton, Arlene Shalinsky, Barbara Cosner, Barbara Heaton, Rene Goldman, Shirley Unell, Rickie Haith, Judy Bell, Spencer Schere, Steve Rothstein, Maurine Pachter, Dion Lutzk and Megan Pener. Not pictured are Jerry Bernard, Lauren Hoopes, Elisa Pener, Morris Rogozenski and Pam Rosenberg. Photo by Elisa Pener

Last month we celebrated the completion of the “Restoring Honor Campaign,” which brought beauty and serenity back to the sacred grounds of Sheffield Cemetery.

As Rabbi Elliot Dorff says, “Why is completing a task a source of blessing? One reason is that one feels a sense of accomplishment after setting out to do something and successfully completed the task. That is especially the case when a group has never been called on to do something like this, and there is no track record to demonstrate that one can.

Another reason that finishing a task is a source of blessing is the pride that one can legitimately have upon completing a task on which one has embarked. Another is the sense that one can contribute to the world in meaningful ways, that we human beings have the ability to see a need and to meet it. In this case, there is also the satisfaction of doing what God has asked of us, so that the completion is a blessing for all of us.” 

Our mission began in 2003 when members of the community urged me to approach the owners of the cemetery, BIAV, about the deplorable conditions of Sheffield Cemetery. Along with a push from my friend Susie Milgram to see what I could do, I had the incentive to try. I thought a letter would suffice. It took much more than that.

Friends of Sheffield (FOS) board members and community leaders contributed to the success of this campaign and the beautification of Sheffield. One was Steve Rothstein, BIAV cemetery chair. He has construction proficiency and knew the right people to contact, seeking out the perfection we required for the chapel renovation. We required the knowledge of our architect Fred Troug, and architects on the FOS board, Joe Oshiver and Ted Seligson.

It took us 13 years to make this restoration of the grounds and chapel a reality. We did it by raising $250,000 for the restoration of the cemetery, which included:

• Restore and maintain lawn (still an annual expense)

• Prune trees and remove debris

• Install portable irrigation system

• Repair concrete walkways, coping, stairs and driveway

• Remove dirt and concrete waste

• Align headstones

• Install handrails

• Cleared ground for future burials

We raised an additional $500,000 for beautification of the cemetery. That included:

Renovate historic chapel and extension (including office, storage and caretaker apartment)

 • Create meditation area

• Repair monument to Jewish soldiers of World War II

• Install benches, pews 

Friends of Sheffield has raised $500,000 for an Endowment Fund to maintain the projects we have undertaken. We realize the interest generated from this fund is not adequately meeting our needs. Our goal is to continue to raise an additional $200,000 for the Endowment Fund. We currently have prioritized maintaining the pristine grounds and the irrigation system.

As we continue to build the endowment, a vote of thanks goes to the executive committee and board of directors of Friends of Sheffield for their hard work and dedication. As we transition to the stage of managing this endowment, Lauren Hoopes, executive director of the Jewish Community Foundation, and our attorney, Stan Zeldin, have helped us determine what lies ahead.

The Friends of Sheffield executive committee will now function as an advisory board to distribute The Jewish Community Foundation-Friends of Sheffield Fund. 

We are proud we have completed our “Restoring Honor Campaign” and look to the future. But our holy work is never complete. We still need the Friends of Sheffield and the Jewish Community to be a part of this noble cause.