«Jewish Observer»
August 2002
5762 Elul

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The Kerch charitable center "Khesed Malka" creates a lapidary (depositary of stone monuments) within a museum program.

These are Jewish gravestones - bearers of Jewish cultural and historical traditions - a forgotten and non-revived custom of the Jewish people in diaspora. The community members deliver Jewish gravestones up to the building of a former Prayer house of craftsmen. In this way people rescue gravestones from being used as a construction material by those who have no respect for historic memory of other nation. Most numerous are monuments in the form of a-metre-and-a-half vertical gravestones made of local coquina - trees with chopped off trunks and branches symbolizing orphaned children. One of massive gravestones imitates its creation in the form of irregular stones. It is adorned with a skillfully carved brand winding round the monument in which center an oval medallion is sculptured. It has a bilingual epitaph. The upper part is in Hebrew, the lower in Russian. A David star can be seen on a fragment of marble gravestone. It was, usually, depicted on men's gravestones. Monuments of complex forms contain small round deepenings in their horizontal parts. They collect rainwater for birds to remember a soul of a deceased woman. Young girls were, habitually, buried under such gravestones. Epitaphs in Hebrew are wonderfully preserved on the gravestones in the form of a rectangular plate or of a plate with an oval upper part; dates are carved in Hebrew letters. Here is the translation of one epitaph, "This gravestone is to commemorate Esther - an important and pious woman, daughter of his blessed memory Simkha Sinakh, spouse of his blessed memory Mordekhai Bosh. She survived 63 years. She passed away Tamuz 3 (end of June) on Tuesday. Old tombstones are of a big size, diverse forms and materials, having unique epitaphs and more thoroughly processed stones. Tombstones of the late XX - early XX centuries look standard and unified, devoid of compositional diversity. Those who know modern Hebrew easily read and understand epitaphs.

Lapidary monuments reflect corresponding epoques and outlooks, help understand Jewish life in the Pale of Settlement.

Excursions about the lapidary are cognitive and interesting from architectural, historical, art, ethnographic, linguistic sides but they are most valuable to arouse a Jewish spirit, pride of traditions and culture of the ancient Jewish nation.


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