CMENTARZE ŻYDOWSKIE W WIELKOPOLSCE ZWYCZAJE POGRZEBOWE I SYMBOLIKA MACEW
JEWISH CEMETERIES IN GREATER POLAND. BURIAL CUSTOMS AND THE SYMBOLIC OF THE MATSEVAH
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Acemetery is the most important mystical object in the Jewish kahal. Its inviolability until Judgment day, regardless of what has survived on the surface, is guaranteed by law. Even when the cemetery does not contain the graves of the ancestors it remains a holy site. This principle has been the cause of numerous conflicts whenever empty places were occupied by other objects. What has remained of the centuries-long Jewish presence in Greater Poland? Its first representatives appeared during the tenth century in Kalisz (the oldest Jewish kahal), where they resided in separate quarters known as ghettos, which contained also a cemetery. Only in subsequent centuries were cemeteries located outside the town. Fenced in with a stone wall and usually overgrown (the removal of plants was prohibited) they remained specific sites. Death and burial as well as the period of mourning were linked with numerous customs, which deeply religious Jews were compelled to observe. A characteristic grave monument in the cemeteries of Greater Poland was the matsevah, i. e. a vertically standing slab which in time became a symbol of death; its carved elements and inscriptions enclosed memory about the deceased. The symbolic of the matsevahs varied, e. g. hands in the gesture of bestowing a blessing were placed on the graves of priests, books with crowns denoted scholars, and a money box was the sign of charity. Broken candles and trees as well as a sinking ship symbolised the abrupt end of life. The inscriptions, in Yiddish, German and Russian (in the Russian partition area), lauded the name and virtues of the deceased. Alongside the few synagogues in Greater Poland there are more than forty extant cemeteries with gravestones (out of a total of about 200). The most specific cemeteries are those in Koźmin-Orla, Kalisz, Mirosławiec, Szlichtyngowa-Górczyn, Skwierzyn and Trzciel. In Poznań the only trace of a Jewish cemetery is a block with fragments of matsevahs in the communal cemetery in Milostów. During the second world war and the postwar period Jewish cemeteries were frequently devastated, and the matsevahs were treated as useful building material. Let us protect those few traces of a nation which co-created the history and tradition of Greater Poland.
- mgr, absolwentka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu, ukończyła studia podyplomowe z zakresu archeologii przemysłowej na Politechnice Wrocławskiej. Jest pracownikiem Regionalnego Ośrodka Badań i Dokumentacji Zabytków w Poznaniu. Zajmuje się problematyką ochrony i dokumentacji obiektów związanych ze wsią (architektura, założenie folwarczne, parkowe) oraz nekropoliami, szczególnie cmentarzami żydowskimi, i obyczajami pogrzebowymi.
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