Headstone, Cimpina, Romania, 2000

Headstone, Cimpina, Romania, 2000

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“It’s a community where I photographed one couple—that’s all that’s left [of the Jewish community]. They still have one synagogue that nobody visits.” This is what the photographer, Zion Ozeri, has to say about the town of Cimpina, Romania, where he took this picture. When he went with the couple to the town’s Jewish cemetery, he found it overgrown and in disrepair. There was a thriving Jewish community here, but after the Holocaust, there was no one left to tend to the gravestones. 

Notice the decorations on this headstone. You can see a Magen David and what seems to be a kind of menorah in the middle. Next to it are two hands. In ancient times, when the priests, or Cohanim, blessed the people, this is how they held their hands. Descendents of the Cohanim still make this sign when they symbolically bless the congregation in synagogues today. Its use on this tombstone probably means the person buried there was a Cohen. You can Œfind this motif on the headstones of Cohanim everywhere in the world—South America, Europe, Israel, and elsewhere.


Sample Texts:

לַכּלֹ, זְמָן; וְעֵת לְכָל-חֵפֶץ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם.
       עֵת לָלֶדֶת,              וְעֵת לָמוּת;
       עֵת לָטַעת,              וְעֵת לַעֲקוֹר נָטוּעַ.
       עֵת לַהֲרוֹג              וְעֵת לִרְפּוֹא,
       עֵת לִפְרוֹץ              וְעֵת לִבְנוֹת.
       עֵת לִבְכּוֹת             וְעֵת לִשְׂחוֹק,
       עֵת סְפוֹד               וְעֵת רְקוֹד.
       עֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ אֲבָנִים,      וְעֵת כְּנוֹס אֲבָנִים;
       עֵת לַחֲבוֹק,            וְעֵת לִרְחקֹ מֵחַבֵּק.
       עֵת לְבַקֵּשׁ              וְעֵת לְאַבֵּד,
       עֵת לִשְׁמוֹר            וְעֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ
       עֵת לִקְרוֹעַ             וְעֵת לִתְפּוֹר,
       עֵת לַחֲשׁוֹת            וְעֵת לְדַבֵּר.
       עֵת לֶאֱהבֹ             וְעֵת לִשְׂנאֹ,
       עֵת מִלְחמָה           וְעֵת שָׁלוֹם.

A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven;
A time for being born and a time for dying,
A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
A time for slaying and a time for healing,
A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
A time for wailing and a time for dancing;
A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
A time for seeking and a time for losing,
A time for keeping and a time for discarding;
A time for ripping and a time for sewing,
A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating;
A time for war and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) 3:1-8


We rejoice over a birth and mourn over a death. But we should not. For when a man is born, who knows what he will do or how he will end? But when a man dies, we may rejoice—if he left a good name and this world is in peace.
– Midrash Tanhuma