SJ Rabbi Mourns Souls at Valley Med Graveyard

The Jewish ceremony is in advance of a bigger service to follow on Saturday.

By Stephanie Chuang and Lisa Fernandez
|  Thursday, Jul 5, 2012  |  Updated 9:12 PM PDT
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In a quiet, ceremony Thursday, Rabbi Leslie Alexander chanted a mourner's prayer for the souls found by accident at a construction site at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center earlier this year.

In a quiet, ceremony Thursday, Rabbi Leslie Alexander chanted a mourner's prayer for the souls found by accident at a construction site at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center earlier this year.

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In a quiet, ceremony Thursday, a rabbi chanted a mourner's prayer for the souls found by accident at a construction site at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center earlier this year.

"I have no idea if anyone buried there was Jewish," Rabbi Leslie Alexander of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley told NBC Bay Area. "But you've got to think that out of 1,400 graves, someone might have been."

She added: "We don't know anyone who is buried there. But potentially they had nobody. It is our tradition as a community to take responsibility for the destitute and lay them to rest."

The discovery of the graveyard, which dates back to between 1875 and 1935 at the county hospital on Bascom Avenue in San Jose, was first reported by NBC Bay Area in May.

In February, construction crews working on improvements at the hospital found the graves - numbering as many as 1,445. It is called a Potter's Field, a term for a graveyard where poor people are buried.

In a county map from 1932, the cemetery is marked. But by 1958, there was no indication it existed. By 1966, there was an employee lot on top of the cemetery.

The small gathering Thursday in a parking garage overlooking the construction site was attended by about a dozen people - hospital staff, and members of the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council.

There is a larger Potter's Field ceremony scheduled for Saturday, and includes chaplains from many faiths. The Jewish ceremony was held Thursday because funeral services are not permitted on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

To see earlier reports of the discovery of the graveyard, click here:

 

 

Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-432-4758 or lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com. Follow Stephanie Chuang @StephChuang.

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