Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Puttin' On The Ritz...

The inscription for the elegantly-dressed gentleman pictured here reads

Our beloved father
An honest and righteous man
Reb Moshe Yitzhak
son of Yehezkiel
At the very bottom of the image is inscribed the family name, Black (here phonetically spelled as "Bleck.")

In this cemetery in Woburn, I saw several tombstones from the 1920's and '30s with these little portraits of the deceased. This is something I've never seen in the Baltimore area, except in recent years among Jews who immigrated from the former Soviet Union since the 1970s.

Po Nikbara...

Po nikbara Yehudit bat Reb Mordechai...

Here is buried Yehudit (Judith) the daughter of Reb Mordechai...

Among Ashkenazi Jews, until recently, the first inscription near the top of a tombstone has been פנ, letters with the sounds of "P" and "N." These are the initial letters for the phrase פה נקבר (PO nik-BAHR*), meaning "here is buried."

I became interested in Hebrew tombstones when researching the history of my Dad's family. He came from a small town, Hoof, outside Kassel in Germany. Several years ago, an resident of Hoof generously sent me about 80 photographs of tombstones taken in the Hoof-Breitenbach cemetery that served the Jewish communities of the two neighboring towns.

Those old-style tombstones, dating from the early 1800's until just before WWII, were generously inscribed in Hebrew (many also had German) in a style rarely used by postwar Jews in America. But this past weekend, I stumbled across several old Jewish cemeteries in Woburn, MA, each containing a wealth of the older-style tombstones.

Here's an excellent guide to decoding a Hebrew tombstone inscription.

* note: Hebrew verbs indicate the gender of the subject or object. While nikbar is masculine, nik-bah-RAH(נקברה), as in the case of this stone, is femine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Judkins Pond, Winchester MA

Judkins Pond - Winchester, MAWe were in the Boston area to visit our daughter Leah this past weekend. The weather was spectacular, and we were treated to an early (for us) display of fall colors.

I got up early Sunday morning to get some good light, and was rewarded with this scene in Winchester, the town next to where our motel was.