The town of Donaldsonville, surrounded by fields of sugarcane, was once home to many German and Alsatian Jews. Situated as it is on the Mississippi River and located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Donaldsonville is easily accessed by use of the River Road from New Orleans, where scenic views are as plentiful as there are bends in the river. One such sight is the beautiful alley of oaks, after which Oak Alley Plantation was named, located in Vacherie, Louisiana.
One remaining vestige of what was once a large Jewish community in Donaldsonville is the old Lehmann Store, built in 1877 to house the mercantile business established by Jacob Lehmann. The Italianate-style building is no longer open for business and now houses the Historic Donaldsonville Museum. At the time of its recent closing, it was the oldest continuously operating department store in Louisiana. Lemann, a native of Hesse, eventually owned several sugar plantations in the Donaldsonville area and operated several plantation stores which were branches of the main store in Donaldsonville.
The Jewish cemetery in Donaldsonville was founded in 1856 by Congregation Bikur Sholem. With only 2 practicing Jewish families now residing in Donaldsonville, the Congregation is now defunct. The former synagogue building still stands, but is now a store. The cemetery is maintained by a trust fund set up by descendants of those buried there and by other interested persons. Most of the graves have Hebrew inscriptions. It is believed that many older graves are situated in the open expanse near the entrance, whose wooden markers deteriorated over time. These unmarked graves probably include those of Jacob Lemann and members of his immediate family.
Among those buried in the Bikur Sholem Cemetery are: Rabbi Marx Klein, born in Hatten Alsace on February 2 1853, died in Donaldsonville May 15 1908; Clara Bombett Levy, wife of Lazard Levy, born in Saverne Alsace October 31, 1838, died January 18 1902; Henry Netter, born in Ingwiller France on July 9 1850, died at Donaldsonville November 30 1925; Leon Hemendinger, born September 26 1838 in Schlettstadt, Alsace, died November 4 1913; Solomon Klotz born in Uhrweiler Alsace June 15 1854, died in Napoleonville May 10 1931, husband of Fanny Wolf; Isidore Kessler born in Mertzweiler Alsace May 18 1878, died June 11 1909; Marcel Himmler, born in Gundershoffen Alsace December 16 1888, died December 12 1927; Julia Abraham, wife of A. Klotz, born in Reichshoffen Feb 11 1845, died August 15, 1871.
[Sources for some of the information above: website and brochures published by the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Utica, Mississippi; Eric J. Brock, Shreveport, LA, chronicle posted to the IAJGS Cemetery Project for Donaldsonville, Louisiana; Elliott Ashkenazi, "The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840-1875".]