Jewish funerals and local traditions XIX-XXI
The cemetery is not only a place of memory about relatives, ancestors, a place of historical research, but also a place of statistical research. Jewish cemeteries in the territory of the former Soviet Union retained their national status until 1972. This is due to the fact that it was at this time that repatriation was allowed in Israel, and surprisingly, this affected the closure of the burial period at the national cemeteries. If memory concerns relatives and friends, then the problem of historical research concerns the community, the historical community, professional historians who work with archival documents or those that have survived in the history of houses (special archives of tenants), as well as with profile archives of organizations or the cemeteries themselves, where there is no limitation period for transfer to other archival institutions. Also, historians can work with eyewitnesses of certain events, which at the moment are capable. It is impossible in this case to forget the press of the periods studied, the periodicals and documentary sources, including films, photographs and other possible material and non-material sources.
Let us return to sociology: in this case, in the Jewish cemetery we can get information about the language that was used in everyday life by the population, not only Jewish. Sometimes we see that funerals and other troubles for installing a commemorative plate were made by people of non-Jewish nationality until 1989, until the Chesed organizations, which helped organize the funeral of Jews according to Jewish traditions, began to operate everywhere.
For the second half of the twentieth century, the Russian language is characterized by the writing of names and surnames in Jewish cemeteries. A certificate of death was issued in the Russian or the national language of the area in which the buried person died. But the inscriptions were made by close ones. And very often they do not correspond to the certificate of death. The order of the monument or plate was usually made in the warm season, and the writing of a text different from that in the death certificate was possible. So, usually, the deceased children were called diminutive-caressing or family names on the inscription on the plate. The same situation could also be with spouses, where the departed loved one was called a caressing or a completely different name. Very often there is confusion in the day of death: on the monument could be written the date of the funeral, which in the Jewish tradition is different for one day. We remember that Soviet Jews tried to make a burial on the day of death, or, at the worst, the next day. This difference is very important because sometimes, in the post-war period, this was the only difference in the cultural and national rite of the burial of the Jews. This problem is very poorly covered in the history and ethnography of the Jews of the 20th century in the territory of the former Soviet Union.
There are no legislative acts that would regulate the writing of the text on commemorative plates. This makes the search for the researcher more difficult. Also, there is usually no fixed font that would be used for engraving on a stone plate. Sometimes this makes the text difficult to read. Also grammatical errors in the spelling of the name and especially the difficult surnames of the Ashkenazi Jews, in Soviet Central Asia and Central Asia – Sephardi Jews, or the writing of a surname in Hebrew, are possible.
Nevertheless, the texts on the memorial plates are read in the first quarter of the 21st century, which gives us the opportunity to preserve the names of the ancestors and people of Jewish nationality who lived, created, built the world in the Diaspora.
This work is related to the knowledge of languages spoken by Jews who lived in the Diaspora, using different dialects, which also manifest themselves in writing epitaphs on commemorative plates and using fonts. This is especially important for the few inscriptions in Hebrew in the Diaspora, their relationship not only to the religious community, but also to the understanding of their national dignity and culture.
D-r Glazov Ganna Yeshiva University NY