EAST HAVEN >> Gary Cohen of Bethany has been a member of the Hebrew Burial and Free Loan Association for close to 50 years, helping keep the group\u2019s Jewish cemeteries on Brockett Place in good shape, but it wasn\u2019t until last year that he discovered the grave of an uncle that hadn\u2019t been visited in at least 50 years, maybe 100. \u201cHere I am doing the work here and he was here and I found him,\u201d Cohen said as he trimmed overgrowth from the cemetery fence. \u201cHe died before my father was born\u201d in 1911, probably of smallpox, Cohen said. Cohen\u2019s uncle is one of more than 700 poor Jewish residents from the New Haven area and beyond who have been given a proper Jewish burial by the association, whose members, assisted by students from the Yeshiva of New Haven, were helping to clean up headstones Sunday. They were clearing stones of overgrowth and raising those that had sunk too low into the ground. \u201cWe\u2019ve even taken people from outside the New Haven area, further north in Connecticut,\u201d said Paul Terman of New Haven, a member of the group\u2019s board. If the association is notified that \u201ca poor Jewish person \u2026 who\u2019s passed away, we\u2019re not going to turn them away.\u201d The work to make the gravestones more visible is important, Terman said. \u201cWe want people to be able to come back here and see the stone of their father or grandfather or other relative and be able to see that memory and pay their respects.\u201d Ephraim Schwimmer and Asher Baum, both of Lakewood, New Jersey, and students at the Yeshiva of New Haven, said they were impressed by the amount of Jewish history represented in the cemeteries. After the Holocaust, \u201cthey came across and started the first Orthodox Jewish high school in America and a lot of the Yeshivas have been based on that,\u201d Schwimmer said. The cleanup was organized by Terman\u2019s wife, Sharon Reinhart, who works in the Yale School of Drama, as part of the Yale Day of Service. She has been more involved in the no-interest loan function of the association, which started out as two organizations about the turn of the 20th century. \u201cThe earliest person I saw buried here was (buried in) 1876 and that was a little confusing because that was before the organization was actually existing,\u201d Terman said. Brian Koblitz of Branford, president of the association, said it takes care of the graves in two cemeteries, its own and one across Brockett Place \u2014 once called Horse Cart Way \u2014 owned by the Independent New Haven Lodge, a social organization similar to those formed by other immigrant groups. \u201cWe actually used to provide the whole service,\u201d Koblitz said. \u201cWe had a hearse that we ran out to the funeral parlor.\u201d Now, the state pays for indigent burials so the association\u2019s main role is to provide a burial that follows the Jewish faith. The other service provided by the association is interest-free loans given to the needy to help pay bad debts, rent, medical expenses and the like. \u201cThey were immigrants that had come over here,\u201d Koblitz said. \u201cMany of them were Russian. They formed an organization that collected dues and they provided interest-free loans to the incoming immigrants to this country.\u201d The recipients might have repaid the loans at 25 cents a week, \u201ca lot of money back then,\u201d Koblitz said. Another purpose of the loans was to help business owners sponsor immigrants, which was a requirement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, \u201cto get people established and to get people on their feet.\u201d \u201cWe\u2019re actually looking to expand that now and go a little further,\u201d Koblitz said. \u201cWe\u2019re looking into doing \u2026 small-business loans, educational loans, to go along with the scholarships we do.\u201d More information about the Hebrew Burial and Free Loan Association of New Haven can be found at https:\/\/hbflanh.org or by calling 203-772-8488.