The rededication ceremony was held Sept. 22.
Barbara Tolstrup, chairman of the Malden Historical Commission, first brought the blighted condition of the cemetery to the attention of Lisa Berenson of JCAM in November 2011, according to the statement.
Berenson appeared as a guest on Tolstrup’s MATV show “Malden Square,” where the history and condition of the cemetery was discussed, reads the statement. Berenson brought a tape of the show to Kaplan which spurred JCAM into action and resulted in a complete overhaul of the site, adds the statement.
“History has always been important to me, but this restoration is particularly meaningful because it speaks to the children who are buried here,” Tolstrup said in the statement. “This brings back the memory of these poor children and honors the lives of so many who were totally forgotten.”
The Burial Ground, commonly referred to as Maplewood Cemetery, was created by the Shaar Hachayim Association, a burial society for poor and unaffiliated Jews, according to the statement.
In 1905 the cemetery was taken over by the Hebrew Charitable Burial Association, and in 1949 the Malden Jewish War Veterans claimed ownership, reads the statement. The War Veterans asked JCAM to take over the burial ground in 1992, the statement adds.
The Malden landmark is the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Massachusetts and was used from 1851-1914, serving as a burial site for poor Jewish immigrants, according to the statement. The vast majority interred are children who died of common childhood diseases such as measles, influenza and whooping cough. Of the 1,439 burials, only 181 were older than 20 years and most were 5 years old and under, the statement adds.
The city spent a great deal of time reviewing death records at the City Clerk’s Office to retrieve the names and ages of all who are buried at the cemetery.
Among the renovations at the site are a new brass sign at the entrance and the installation of a Children’s Memorial Garden complete with a memorial called “the Forgotten Children” in honor of the children resting in the unmarked graves, according to the statement. The new wrought iron entrance gate and walkway is lined with brick markers each inscribed with the name and age of a lost child, the statement adds.
Additionally, 150 broken and damaged tombstones were repaired and restored by master craftsmen, the statement notes. Kiosks have been set up to display the history of the burial ground in the hopes of reconnecting visitors to their ancestors, reads the statement.
“I couldn’t be more impressed with the results of the restoration and I was honored to play a part in the rededication ceremony,” Christenson said in the statement. “When Stan Kaplan called, we were happy to assist any way we could to preserve this important piece of Malden’s history.”