HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – The Beth Olem Cemetery in Hamtramck, one of Michigan’s oldest Jewish cemeteries, was opened to the public Sunday.
General Motors bought the property in 1981 and built the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center. Jewish law forbids the removal of Jewish graves, so the 1,100 tombstones remain intact and surrounded by the sprawling automotive plant.
The first burial in the cemetery was in the 1860s and the last was in 1948.
“I haven’t been here probably since I was 12 years old with my father, whose father and mother are buried here who I never knew,” Ken Gitlin of Orchard Lake said. “I just thought it was time to come and pay my respects.”
The cemetery is only open twice a year.
“Because of security and lots of other good reasons were not allowed to visit except for four hours just before Rosh Hashanah and just before Passover,” former president of the Jewish Society of Michigan said.
The cemetery was open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The next time the gates to the cemetery will be open to the public will be in September before Rosh Hashanah.