The existence of Congregation Ohabai Sholom can be traced to 1851, when the first official act of the tiny Nashville Jewish community was to purchase three acres of land for use as a cemetery. This land is now part of the over nine acres that comprise The Temple Cemetery, located at 2001 Fifteenth Avenue North.
Because of its historical significance and Victorian design elements, the cemetery was added in 2004 to the National Register of Historic Places. The serpentine roads and family plots that were added to the original 1851 property are consistent with the desire of the period for a park-like setting in which visitors to the cemetery could meditate and meander.
A cemetery in Hebrew is called a Beit Hayyim – a house of the living – and tours conducted in the cemetery introduce visitors to the history of the Nashville Jewish community through the individuals buried there. Because the non-Jewish wife of one of the original purchasers of the property had converted to Judaism in her native Holland, where no one was permitted to change their religion, upon her death in 1856, special rabbinic permission had to be granted for her interment in the cemetery. An officer in the Union Army, Lt. Julius Lettman, was buried at the cemetery after being killed in the Battle of Murfreesboro in 1863. S. A. Bierfield was killed by the Ku Klux Klan in nearby Franklin, Tennessee in 1868. In 1866, Joseph Lowenheim narrowly escaped death at the hands of Klansmen when he was able to make a Masonic sign, which one of his attackers recognized. Hungarian, Polish, and Russian early settlers demonstrate the economic growth of the community. The names of those interred in the Temple Cemetery are listed on the Internet. Click here to visit the web site.
The cemetery originally was financed by the Ladies Working Society, the predecessor to The Temple Sisterhood, with funds derived from sewing burial shrouds and from bazaars. In 1905, the Board of Trustees of The Temple formed a Cemetery Committee, which continues to this day to have responsibility for the operation of the cemetery. With the approval by the Temple Board of Trustees and the financial assistance of two grants from the Tennessee Historical Commission, one approved in 2005, and the other in 2006, the Cemetery Committee renovated the 19th Century stone walls that enclose the westerly and southern sides of the cemetery, which will continue to provide repose for and document the history of the Jews of Nashville for generations to come.
For information about the pre-need purchase of interment rights to be buried at The Temple Cemetery (which include a three-year interest-free deferred payment plan for Members of the Congregation), please contact The Temple.