|2201 West Pullen|
Postal Code: 71601
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Within the Grounds of Bellwood Cemetery. Also known as Pine Bluff Jewish Cemetery.
Dating from 1867. Cemetery Vandalized in 1876.
While Jews had been living in Pine Bluff since the 1840s, it took them several years before they began to pray together. Starting in 1859, they met in private homes on the high holidays. Services were led by lay readers Aaron Reinach and Max Weil. Right after the Civil War, Pine Bluff Jews began to organize a congregation. In 1866, they formed Anshe Emeth (Men of Truth) and purchased land for a synagogue. David Aschaffenberg was the first president of the congregation. In October of that year, they held a cornerstone laying ceremony at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Laurel Street. Pine Bluff's mayor and several local Christian ministers spoke at the ceremony.
In the early 20th century, a growing number of Eastern European immigrants settled in Pine Bluff. Wishing to maintain a more traditional religious practice, many of these recent immigrants chose to form their own congregation rather than join the Reform Anshe Emeth. In 1907, a group of 28 Jews founded an Orthodox congregation called B'nai Israel (Sons of Israel). H. Bram was its first president.
Once the supply of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe was cut off by new federal immigration laws in the 1920s, B'nai Israel began to decline. As its members assimilated to life in Pine Bluff, many moved over to Anshe Emeth, finding Reform Judaism a better fit for their new lifestyle. Several of the founder's children joined Anshe Emeth once they reached adulthood. By the 1930s, many of B'nai Israel's members also belonged to the Reform congregation. Weekly services were discontinued, though they still held separate Orthodox services for the high holidays until 1950, when B'nai Israel officially disbanded. Its remaining members joined Anshe Emeth.
Anshe Emeth's decline was brought on by changes in the regional farming economy. Mechanization led to a decrease in the number of farmers around Pine Bluff, which meant that many Jewish-owned businesses were losing much of their customer base. Several Jewish-owned stores in Pine Bluff closed in the last several decades. By 1985, Anshe Emeth had only 69 members. In 2003, the congregation decided to sell their synagogue to a local hospital who has converted it to a nursing school. Without a permanent building, the congregation now meets in a small chapel at the First Presbyterian Church once a month. Only fifteen members still belong to Anshe Emeth.