(CBS) – Jewish Graceland Cemetery is believed to be the oldest Jewish cemetery in Chicago, but half of it is a tangle of trees, overgrown weeds and a campsite for the homeless.
Half of the cemetery is owned by one family by Edie Eiseman and her sister Cathy Horwitz, and that half of the cemetery is in good shape. They say they hate to see the other half the way it is.
“It’s a Yiddish word you might not know. But it’s a ‘shanda,’ it’s a shame. It’s disrespectful,” Edie Eiseman says.
The earliest burial was in the 1850s.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has had a crew of offenders out working there, in the 3900 block of North Clark, near Wrigley Field, mowing and trimming trees.
“We’ll be able to get it in very good condition. Then, once it’s at that point, it’ll be more of a maintenance thing. Someone’s going to have to mow the lawn. Someone’s going to have to take care of the trees that grow up,” he says.
The half of the cemetery that’s getting all the attention now is owned by Doris Weiss-Evon. She says she’s run out of money and wants to sell her half, but not to the sisters who own the other half, the well-kept half.
“No, I will not deal with them in any way, shape or form,” Weiss-Evon says.
Dart says he got involved after 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney contacted him because Tunney’s office was getting complaints about the property.
Tunney asked Dart to see if there was anything criminal going on — similar to what Dart’s investigators have found at some other cemeteries — that would have led to half the Jewish cemetery being overgrown and untended.
Dart says he doesn’t see anything criminal there.