The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Graveyard Geography: What Can We Learn from Jewish Tombstones in Central and Eastern Europe?

The lecture will present the novel methodology of researching Jewish tombstones in central and eastern Europe, which focuses on the signatures of stonemasons on grave markers. In the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, it was relatively common that the producers of tombstones signed their names and addresses on their products. This custom was especially popular in Austria-Hungary and its successor states (Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia), as well as in the neighboring countries (Romania and Serbia). The lecture will demonstrate, what the signatures can tell us about interconnections between different Jewish communities, both on the regional level and on the level of states and empires; the relations between Jews and non-Jews; as well as Jewish identities as expressed in the languages of signatures and epitaphs.