New Mt. Sinai cemetery names new director

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery has hired Donald Meissner as its new executive director.

BY ERIC BERGER, STAFF WRITER

The New Mount Sinai Cemetery Association has hired an executive director with experience in horticulture and the Jewish nonprofit world.

Donald Meissner replaces Daniel Brodsky, who retired after 11 years as director of the Jewish cemetery and mausoleum in Affton. 

Meissner served as community outreach coordinator at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry for Jewish Family & Children’s Services from 2010 to 2013. He joins the New Mount Sinai nonprofit after it recently upgraded its security and prepares to sell some of its land. 

The cemetery dates back to 1846, according to its website. Meissner, 55, has a number of relatives buried at the 52-acre cemetery, including his grandparents and his mother, who died in January. 

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“I’m honored to be a part of this incredible heritage of Jews in St. Louis,” said Meissner, who belongs to U. City Shul and Young Israel of St. Louis, Orthodox congregations in University City. 

The organization recently installed cameras and improved its security systems around the cemetery, using funding from the Jewish Federation of St. Louis in the wake of the February 2017 vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City. Now the group is finalizing the sale of part of its land to a buyer who plans to build apartments for seniors. 

Richard Brickson chaired the New Mount Sinai hiring committee. He said Meissner has the “right kind of personality to interact with people and make them feel comfortable when they are visiting the cemetery and when they are making decisions about what they want to do” in the wake of a death. 

Meissner, who has a master’s in social work, said he was interested in the job in part because he wanted to help people “who have someone pass away and are in need of some comfort.”

He also once owned a nursery and landscaping service and said that “horticulture is one of those things that once you’re in it, you can’t get rid of it. It’s an obsession.”

“There are lots of mature trees plus there are lots of new plantings that have been established over the years by the superintendent (who will continue to work at the cemetery), and it has an interesting topography, and it has a whole bunch of mausoleums that I think give it a very different feel from most cemeteries,” Meissner said.

He also plans to work on the cemetery’s digital presence and marketing. The organization is working on a mapping project that will allow guests to more easily find a family plot. Meissner would like to build the website to contain more history about people buried at the cemetery. 

“There are very interesting stories there that just need to be discovered,” he said.