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DONALDSONVILLE: (Ascension Parish) PDF Print E-mail has Jewish community history and photos. The entire Jewish population is now gone from Donaldsonville. [January 2009]


Bikur Sholim Cemetery: Bikur Sholim Cemetery is located in downtown Donaldsonville on Louisiana Highway 1. Founded in 1856 by Congregation Bikur Sholim (now defunct, though the former synagogue building now stands, presently a hardware store), the cemetery is located immediately next to the Donaldsonville Protestant Burial Ground and two blocks from the Roman Catholic Cemetery. Today (1993), only two practicing Jewish families reside in Donaldsonville. There are a number of intermarried Jews as well as numerous citizens of Alsacian Jewish descent who no longer practice the Jewish faith. Bikur Sholim Cemetery is maintained by a trust fund contributed to by descendants of those buried there and by other interested persons. The administrator of this fund, as well as director of the upkeep of the cemetery, was Mr. Gaston Hirsch, one of the few practicing Jews remaining in the town. [Mr. Hirsch is deceased. December 2000 from Eric Brock, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . He may know the successor.

Surrounded by a fence, the cemetery is neatly planted and well maintained. A few graves have individual fences around them, though most do not. The majority of markers bear at least some Hebrew inscription, though the newer ones typically have less Hebrew inscribed upon them than do the older ones. The cemetery is divided into 10 rows, running north to south, averaging 20 grave spaces each. Burials are generally in chronological order with the oldest burials (as a rule) being nearest the front of the cemetery and the newest near the back. The large amount of open ground near the front of the cemetery, coupled with its founding date of 1856 and the fact that marked burials do not begin until the 1860s, leads to the suspicion that there are probably a number of unmarked early graves here. Among these, probably, are the pioneer merchant Bernard I. Lemann and his wife, Harriet, whose descendants remain in Donaldsonville today. Lemann's store, founded in 1836, remains today in its large 1876 building on Mississippi St. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Probably, these were originally marked with wooden markers that deteriorated over time. The large amount of open space at the rear of the cemetery is undoubtedly simply unused ground. (Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 1984) Source: Eric J. Brock (P.O. Box 5877, Shreveport, LA 71135), Tuesday, March 30, 1993. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

List copied by Audrey B. Westerman, Cathy D. Shanon and Nancy L. written 9/1986, submitted by Rosanne Leeson, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Also see [January 2004]

"Like many Jewish communities, the first institution established. even before a synagogue, was a Jewish cemetery.  In Donaldsonville’s case, the cemetery, called Bikur Sholim, was established in 1856.  The cemetery’s oldest tombstone is a child’s grave, which reads: “To the Memory of Rachel, Daughter of Isaac and Sarah Friedenthal.”  Baby Rachel was only 13 months when she died in 1858.  Although it predates the Civil War, Bikur Sholim’s graves are mostly from after the war.  Especially noteworthy are some of the anterior rows of the cemetery, consisting of yellow epidemic victims from New Orleans from the late 1870s, who were sneaked out at night for a Jewish burial, in order to prevent being interred in mass graves or burned. ... While many of the gravestone inscriptions are in English, the majority bear at least some Hebrew and/or French.  A few graves have individual fences surrounding them, though most do not. One particular monument in Bikur Sholim that deserves special mention is that of nine-year-old Morris Samuelson, son of Samuel and Rebecca Samuelson. The tomb is remarkable for its porcelain picture of young Morris on the monument.  ... The most infamous burial in Donaldsonville’s Jewish cemetery is that of Ike Don.  He was, it seems, a vagabond traveling through Donaldsonville who died unexpectedly.  Because no one knew where he was from or how to get in touch with his relatives, the decision was made to bury him. But because no rabbi was available in Donaldsonville, the funeral rites were performed by Father James Kinkead, a Catholic priest.  Louis Mason, a WWI vet, was not Jewish, but was buried with his Jewish wife, Hylda.  Today, the Jewish cemetery remains the most visible legacy of Jewish life in Donaldsonville." 120 graves [January 2009]

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 00:35
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