About Beth Israel Memorial Park

Beth Israel Memorial Park, a cemetery and mausoleum complex in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

Construction at Beth Israel Memorial Park, Woodbridge, New Jersey, c. 1965.
Ismar David papers, box 16, folder 344, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT. Photographed by Jiageng Lin.

Beth Israel was founded in the 1927, based on the relatively modern concept of a memorial park. An ad that ran in the New York area read:

At Beth Israel Memorial Park you find a modern Jewish Burial Estate where all is dignity, beauty and peace. There are sweeping, unbroken vistas of lovely, landscaped lawns and gardens and NOT A SINGLE TOMBSTONE. And yet the reverent traditions of the past are fully preserved, for at Beth Israel graves are marked with flat bronze plaques of a type first used in Palestine many years ago. These handsome markers are even more durable than stone and are in full accordance with all Jewish precepts.1Advertisement, New York Daily News, September 17, 1951.

The Shipper family assumed ownership in 1939.2Hendy, Valerie, Cemetery’s gardens teach ancient Biblical lessons, Central New Jersey Home News, August 16, 1980, p. 4. By 1951, Leon Shipper was vice president and had already overseen features for the area, including a Holocaust memorial. The park eventually expanded to include Christian and non-sectarian sections, as well as mausoleum complexes. Gedeon Takaro handled advertising for a period of time.

Ismar David’s first work for Beth Israel was the design for the Bible Archway in the Bible Gardens, dedicated in 1957. He went on to design mausoleums and general layouts, bronze grave markers graphics and decorative features for Beth Israel, as well as Rose Hills, King David, and other parks owned by the Shipper family until at least the late 1970s. David worked closely with the Shippers and the J.C. Milne Organization, who also built mausoleums for Pinelawn Memorial Park, and was involved with the technical minutiae needed for Jas. H. Matthews & Co. to produce a six-paneled bronze door for a private mausoleum at Beth Israel.

In the early 1970s, when Ismar and Dorothy David purchased a coop apartment, Leon Shipper wrote a touching tribute in what would have been a pro forma reference letter:

In the past 22 years, Mr. David has deigned works of art and architecture for our organization which has been widely acclaimed by leading critics and museums and members of his profession.

What is more important is that he is a warm, compassionate, intelligent human being and devoted friend.

Ismar David at Beth Israel Memorial Park
Ismar David, standing in front of the glass chapel at Beth Israel Memorial Park, 1966.
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