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Yad Vashem

The paupers' grave


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The Jewish section of Belfastís City Cemetery contains the headstones of a remarkable cross-section of Jewish society. As we have seen Company Directors, housewives and tailors were all laid to rest there. Yet the record of just 104 names is misleading. The Jewish section of City Cemetery conceals a silent testimony to the central Jewish respect for life and manís mortal equality. Recorded at the back of the City Cemetery record books are the lists of those buried in the Jewish and military graves, along with the names and addresses of the plots in the Jewish section. Yet behind these lists are two confusing column of figures which correspond to plot numbers and ages. This is the record of some two dozen (now unknown) Jewish persons who either could not afford a burial or had no family to arrange the ceremony. In essence, these were Ashkenazi Jewish paupers who, despite their poverty, were buried by the Chevra Kadisha in keeping with the directions given for burial in Eruvin 17. The story of Rabbi Schahterís establishment of a collective gravestone to give a name and a place and a memorial to paupers is seldom told. There are certainly no indications of this act of remembrance in the cemetery today. The concept of this collective memorial is similar to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. The phrase, literally ďa name and a placeĒ, is indicative of precisely what a gravestone means in Jewish culture, and of the importance of not only remembering the dead, but of maintaining the record of their life and death.

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The paupers' grave
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