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Isaac and Bertha Senders lost their baby daughter, Clara, in December 1877. She was just 2 months old.

The Senders family was Jewish and didn't want to travel to either Portland or Ashland for the specific burial rites observed by Jewish custom. But at the time, they were the only two cities that offered Jewish cemeteries.

Clara's death brought Albany's small Jewish community together to establish its own cemetery on a 2-acre parcel off Salem Avenue, in the southwest corner of the 10-acre Waverly Memorial Park, which was owned by a Masonic group, St. Johns Lodge No. 17.

A few months after burying their daughter, the Senders deeded that parcel of land to the newly-formed First Hebrew Congregation of Albany and named it the First Albany Hebrew Cemetery.

The cemetery, with the Houston Cemetery across the street, will be the focus of the 12th annual "History Through Headstones" tour this month, sponsored by the Albany Regional Museum.

The tour is scheduled from 7 p.m. to dusk Wednesday, July 25. Admission is free and the public is invited.

Part of the reason the tour is centered on the Jewish Cemetery is to highlight changes there. One of those changes is to restore use of the cemetery's historic name.

The grounds became known as the Waverly Jewish Cemetery in 1989. That year, the first residential part-time rabbi in Salem did a rededication ceremony for the cemetery, said Daniel Eliezer Froehlich, archivist for Albany Hebrew Cemetery — "and, not having easy access or knowledge of the history, made the new name just so they could have a name."

Albany's Jewish community had dwindled by 1924, and that year the cemetery — including all of the acreage in the St. John's Masonic Cemetery, too — was deeded to St. John's Masonic Lodge of Albany, with the provision the Masons maintain the Jewish section separate from the Masonic cemetery, and maintain the grounds.

The Willamette Valley Jewish Community Burial Society recently took over managing the cemetery, however. In 2016, the cemetery, which was already listed in Oregon’s historic registry, received approval to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Since we were seeking historical recognition status, the original name is more authentic, as well as no special attachment to the default name of Waverly," Froehlich said. "Now that we do have historic cemetery status with the state, all the more reason to use the historic name."

The burial society received grants in 2016 and 2017 from the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to repair and restore various headstones at the Albany Hebrew Cemetery.

Members also are using grant funds for a new map, which will be posted in the cemetery kiosk later this year. Children’s book author Ellen Beier is creating the map, which will include the location of pioneer family plots in the Albany Hebrew Cemetery.

The cemetery is still in current use, Froehlich said: "Officially the Salem congregation and Corvallis community, but unaffiliated and members from other area towns, such as Newport, have been interred."

A website for the Albany Hebrew Cemetery has been established at albanyhebrewcemetery.org. According to information there, other plans for the grounds are to put in more paths and benches for visitors.

Froehlich said he's delighted the Albany Regional Museum has chosen the cemetery as part of its tour this year.

"Great to simply let folks know it exists, as well as, with more people aware, may help with less vandalism," he said. "Visitors will hopeful, either learn or be reminded that Jewish pioneers were a near majority of early Albany business people, and that there once a viable local Jewish community in Albany, much bigger than Corvallis!"

For more information about the headstones tour, contact the Albany Regional Museum at 541-967-7122.

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