Temple Israel
Cemetery History & Timeline
Hebrew Cemetery History
The Hebrew Benevolent Association purchased and established the Hebrew Cemetery in the southwest corner of Leadville’s Evergreen Cemetery in January 1880.

The Temple Israel Foundation acquired the title to the Hebrew Cemetery in 1993, ending a long period of institutional neglect. Since 1996, the Denver chapter of B’nai B’rith has led volunteer efforts each June to restore the site, maintain the grounds, and replace markers. The cemetery has been reconsecrated. Modern burials resumed in the newly platted Block E in 2001.

Jewish tradition teaches that establishing a cemetery is an urgent priority for any new Jewish community. Leadville’s explosive growth and the death of Gustave “Fred” Jelenko in June of 1879 accelerated the establishment of the Hebrew Cemetery by January of 1880. Leadville’s Jewish community interred his body in the Hebrew Cemetery in January of 1880. At the time of his burial — the first one held in the Hebrew Cemetery — the area consisted of 101,000 sq. ft. in the southwest corner of Evergreen Cemetery.

Over the ensuing decades, the Hebrew Cemetery served as the resting place for 132 Jewish souls, including Minette Miller (1894-1981), the last living immediate descendent of Leadville’s pioneer Jews. Only 59 original markers remained; 60 lost markers were replaced, but 13 proved to be unlocatable. The creation of the Temple Israel Foundation in the 1980s and its subsequent acquisition of the Hebrew Cemetery have restored solemn dignity to this sacred space.

Dedicated volunteers from the Denver chapter of B'nai B'rith, initially cleared the Hebrew Cemetery of heavy overgrowth, constructed a new fence, erected an entry arch, and replaced grave markers and monuments. The Hebrew Cemetery was reconsecrated in August of 1999. Annual cleanup weekends occur in late June and anyone is welcome to help.

A section of the cemetery was cleared and checked to make ready for new burials. The first modern interment took place in the new Block E in December of 2001. B’nai B’rith’s ongoing support and volunteer-driven annual June clean up, along with periodic working visits from members of the Synagogue of the Summit, enables the Temple Israel Foundation to operate and maintain the historic Hebrew Cemetery.
Hebrew Cemetery Timeline
February 18, 1878
Leadville incorporates as a city electing Horace Tabor as Mayor.

July 14, 1879
Gustave "Fred" Jelenko dies (from an overdose of medicinal opium). His death, Jewish tradition, and Leadville’s explosive growth reinforce the community’s need for a Jewish cemetery.

January, 1880
101,000 square feet of the southwest corner of Evergreen Cemetery is purchased by the Hebrew Benevolent Association.
Gustave “Fred” Jelenko was the first to be buried in the new Hebrew Cemetery in Leadville.

August, 1970
Newspaper report of vandalism in the Hebrew Cemetery, a likely act of youth drunkeness rather than an act of bigotry.

May 28, 1972
Cleanup efforts by an unknown group made an attempt to push back on the reclamation of the forest over the forgotten cemetery, documented with a series of photos.

Minette Miller dies. She is the last resident descendant of the pioneering Jews in Leadville.
June 18, 1993
Temple Israel Foundation acquires the Hebrew Cemetery through a Quiet Title action.

August, 1997
Organized restoration efforts begin with the assistance of the Denver chapter of B’nai B’rith and B’nai Vail.

August, 1999
The Hebrew Cemetery is re-consecrated after years of cleanup efforts led by the Denver chapter of B’nai B’rith.

The Hebrew Cemetery establishes Block E for modern burials.

Missing grave markers were replaced for the known grave sites.

June, 2016
The annual volunteer Clean-up Weekend celebrates 20 years of Denver chapter of B’nai B’rith’s ongoing support of cemetery upkeep.

June, 2021
In spite of a wordwide pandemic, the annual cleanup quietly celebrates 25 years of the cemetery upkeep.

Temple Israel Foundation
208 West 8th Street
Leadville, Colorado 80461

Temple Israel Museum
201 West 4th Street
Leadville, Colorado 80461

Hebrew Cemetery
SW Corner of Evergreen Cemetery
North end of James Street, Leadville
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