Symbol for a mohel on a monument in Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills Cemetery.

Symbol for a mohel on a monument in Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills Cemetery.


Every Jewish community has at least one cemetery. When visiting, you may have noticed that there are many different styles of monuments. Sometimes they are solid slabs, laid close to the ground. Sometimes they are upright. Sometimes there is a large family stone, surrounded by individual markers. Sometimes there are only words, and sometimes there are images and symbols, too. What leads to this diversity and what do the words and symbols tell us?

If you are looking for answers to these questions, join Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati (JCGC) and Rockdale Temple at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at Rockdale Temple for the fourth lecture in the quarterly series, covering the topic of Jewish tombs, tombstone iconography, and art history. 

Attendees will be guided by three speakers through the history and development of Jewish funerial art and customs, exploring how Jews have buried their loved ones, and the various ways Jewish families have chosen to commemorate them.

Dr. Matthew Kraus, associate professor in the Department of Judaic Studies at the University of Cincinnati, will present Second Temple burial practices, discussing topics from the tomb of the Hasmoneans to ancient Jewish funerary inscriptions, and how Jewish practices compared to those of the surrounding contemporary Mediterranean world. 

Abby Schwartz, director of the Skirball Museum, will give a presentation focusing on more local traditions, examining the evolution of burial practices of Cincinnati’s Jewish community. She will discuss the burial sites of some of Cincinnati’s prominent Jewish figures, and discuss general trends that can be seen in the funerial art in local cemeteries. She will also explore the meanings of the images found on tombstones. 

Caroline Sim, former JCGC Jewish Foundation fellow, will present a general overview of Jewish burial practices over history. She will also elucidate some of the typical Hebrew acronyms and expressions found on tombstones.

Kraus studies the history of biblical interpretation and Judaism in the Greek and Roman world.

Schwartz has served as director of the Skirball Museum on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion since 2013. 

Sim is in her fifth year as a rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on the Cincinnati campus. She recently finished her year as JCGC’s Foundation fellow. 

Over the past year, Rockdale Temple and JCGC have partnered to present the lecture series in an effort to engage and educate the larger community about issues related to Jewish cemeteries. This is the final planned lecture of the four-part series. 

For more information, contact Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati or Rockdale Temple. 

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