A place for the burial of the dead. The word "cemetery" is derived from the Greek κομιητήριον, "the place where the dead sleep" (from κοιμάω ("to sleep"), used of the dead in I Kings xi. 43, LXX.; II Macc. xii. 45; Ecclus. (Sirach) xlvi. 19, xlviii. 13; Matt. xxvii. 52; I Cor. xv. 20, and is applied almost exclusively to Jewish and Christian graveyards (see Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." vii. 11, 13; "Apost. Const." vi. 30; and Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Encyc." s.v. "Koimeterien"). In Hebrew it is variously termed: ("the place of sepulchers," Neh. ii. 3; Sanh. vi. 5), ("house of eternity"; "long home," Eccl. xii. 5, A. V.), or (Eccl. R. x. 9; Targ. Isa. xlii. 11; Yer. M. Ḳ. i. 80b), and ("house of the living," after Job xxx. 23 and Isa. xxvi. 19). The modern euphemistic name is "the good place," and among Polish-Russian Jews "the pure place." Non-Jewish names are: "hortus Judœorum" (garden of the Jews), probably from the trees surrounding the graves (Abrahams, "Jewish Life in theMiddle Ages," p. 77); "mons Judaicus" (Jewish hill; Berliner, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," ii. 14); and "Juden-Sand" or "Sandhof" (sand-yard.)


The ancient law (see Burial) required the burial-place to be at least fifty ells distant from the nearest house (B. B. ii. 9); the place for the cemetery was therefore selected as remote as convenient from the city (Luke vii. 12). In Talmudical times the tombs were either in caves—hence , frequently the name for a cemetery (M. Ḳ. 17a; B. M. 85a; B. B. 58a)—or hewn out of rocks; and the site was marked by a whitewashed stone (, Shek. i. 1) to warn passers-by against Levitical impurity. Mausoleums, Monuments, and inscribed Tombstones, though not unknown, were exceptional. In the Middle Ages the Jewish cemetery was as a rule situated at the extreme end of the ghetto, the hospital and other communal buildings being frequently erected in the neighborhood. The limited area often made it necessary to inter bodies above those previously buried; and thus the rule became general to leave a space of six handbreadths between them (Ṭur Yoreh De'ah, 363, after Hai Gaon, and Sifte Cohen to Yoreh De'ah, 362, 4).

Medieval Cemeteries.

The Jewish cemetery in London in 1285 was within the city walls and was surrounded by a protective wall (Abrahams, l.c. p. 78), as was one in Rome (Berliner, l.c. i. 14; compare idem, ii. 62). At times, however, the cemetery was at a great distance from the town (Berliner, l.c.; Abrahams, l.c.). In fact, it was frequently the case that many townships ( = "settlements") had one cemetery in common. The London cemetery was the only one in England up to 1177; the Hamburg Jews had to bury their dead in Altona; the Amsterdam Jews, in Ouderkerk (Schudt, "Merckwürdigkeiten," vi. 38, § 2; Jacobs, "Jews of Angevin England," p. 62); the Jews of both upper and lower Bavaria, in Regensburg (Berliner, "Aus dem Leben der Deutschen Juden im Mittelalter," p. 118); and the municipality often imposed a tax for the right of burial (Stobbe, "Rechtsverhältnisse der Juden," p. 21).

The Old Cemetery of the Community of Frankfort-on-the-Main.(From a photograph.)Jewish Cemetery Between Langnau and Endingen, Switzerland. The Figures 1, 2, and 3 Indicate Respectively the Graves of Men, Women, and Children; 4, that of a Woman who Died in Childbirth.(From Ulrich, "Jüdische Geschichte in der Schweiz," 1768.)

In ancient times the cemetery was a necropolis consisting of family sepulchers, and common burial-grounds, in which criminals had special sections assigned to them (Sanh. vi. 5; compare "the potter's field," Matt. xxvii. 7). In the Middle Ages the area was often limited, but the dead were as a rule buried in a row (Yaïr Bacharach, Responsa, No. 239). Rabbis and men of distinction were placed in a special row (see Feuchtwang, in Kaufmann Gedenkbuch, p. 370: and Holdheim). On the other hand, baptized Jews and persons of evil repute, as well as suicides, were buried in a corner outside of the line (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 345 and 362). In regard to the direction in which the head was placed custom differed: some preferred it toward the east; others toward the west or south; others, again, toward the exit of the cemetery (see Horowitz, "Inschriften des Alten Friedhofs," Introduction, iii.). Each cemetery had, as a rule, a place for the ablution of the dead, called the Ṭaharah, in which the prayers were also recited and the Haḳḳafot made. Adjacent to this hall or house lived the keeper, whose duty it was to watch the cemetery to prevent profanation.

Sacredness of the Cemetery.

In Talmudic times the cemetery was visited on fast-days for the sake of offering prayer at the graves of the departed, "in order that they may intercede in behalf of the living" (Ta'an. 16; Yer. Ta'an. ii. 65a; compare Soṭah 34b); and this remained the custom throughout the Middle Ages (see Isserles, Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 459, 10, and 481, 4; Schudt, l.c. vi. 38, 78; Berliner, l.c. pp. 118 et seq.). Any occupation showing disregard of the dead, such as eating, drinking, profane work, even the wearing of ṭallit and tefillin, or the use of a scroll of the Law, is forbidden in the cemetery; nor may the vegetation growing there, or the ground itself, be used for private purposes (Meg. 29a; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 367, 3-4, and 368). The non-use of the grass, however, often led to total neglect of the cemetery, which gave it a very dreary aspect not at all in keeping with its original design. In Talmudic times great care was bestowed upon the cemetery; so that the saying became current, "The Jewish tombs are fairer than royal palaces" (Sanh. 96b; compare Matt. xxiii. 29, and Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 14). Orthodox rabbis in modern times, however, have strongly objected to the decking of graves with flowers (see the report of a bitter controversy in Löw's "Ben Chananjah," 1858, pp. 433-442). A singular custom in the Middle Ages permitted first-born animals, which were held too sacred for private use (Yoreh De'ah, 309, 1), to pasture in the cemetery (Schudt, l.c. vi. 8, 39). On the other hand, the cemetery was an object of fear and superstition, inasmuch as it was regarded as the dwelling-place of spirits and demons (Isa. lxv. 4; Matt. viii. 28), and dangerous to remain in overnight (Ḥag. 3b; Nid. 17a); wherefore cabalists deprecated the idea of women—who since Eden's days have had a special predilection for the archfiend—visiting the cemetery.

The Jewish Cemetery, Brody, Austria.(From Joseph Pennell, "The Jew at Home," by permission of D. Appleton & Co.)

On entering a cemetery the following benediction is to be recited: "Blessed be the Lord our God, King of the Universe, who created you in justice, who maintained and supported you in justice, who caused you to die in justice, and who recorded the number of you all in justice, and who is sure to resuscitate you in justice. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who revivest the dead" (Ber. 58b). Compare an older and milder version in Yer. Ber. ix. 13, and Tosef., Ber. vi. 5: "Blessed be He who recordeth the number of you all. He shall judge you all, and He shall raise you all. Blessed be He who is faithful in His word, the Reviver of the Dead." Compare also Pesiḳ. R., ed. Buber, 46b, and Baer's "'Abodat Yisrael," p. 586. For other prayers composed later, see "Ma'abar Yabboḳ," compiled by Aaron Berechiah of Modena; L. Landshuth, , Berlin, 1867; and B. H. Ascher, "The Book of Life," 4th ed., London, 1874. A manual of prayers and devotional readings upon visiting the cemetery was prepared by theNew York Board of Jewish Ministers, and published (1898) under the title of "The Door of Hope."

Tragic Fate of Jewish Cemeteries.

The fate of their cemeteries forms one of the most tragic chapters in the tragic history of the Jewish people. Every massacre of the living was, as a rule, followed by furious attacks on the dead in their graves and by a wanton spoliation of the tombstones. Graveyards, though regarded as asylums by the pagan Roman and Teuton alike, were not sacred enough in the eyes of the numerous mobs to serve as a last refuge for the martyr race during the centuries of persecution. Old seliḥot and many eye-witnesses, quoted in Zunz, "Z. G." pp. 396-401, tell the same sad story of the Jewish cemeteries. Most of the tombstones were scattered about the cities and used for building and other purposes; and only occasionally were the lines of an inscription recorded by the historian. There is consequently little hope that the history of the old Jewish communities will ever, like that of buried cities of old, be unearthed. Nearly every trace of the ancient cemeteries and settlements has been wantonly effaced. Still, a few scanty records saved here and there, and occasional discoveries of scattered tombstones and of graveyards long concealed from sight, have brought considerable material to light, with which the historian is enabled to reconstruct in part the history of "those that sleep in the dust" and to revive their memory. See Catacombs, Paleography, and Tombstone.

Part of the Cemetery of the Emanu-El Congregation, at Salem Fields, New York.(From a photograph.)
  • Zunz, Z. G. i. 390 et seq.;
  • Rapoport, in K. Lieben, Gal 'Ed; Bliss, Excavations at Jerusalem, p. 230, London, 1898;
  • I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, pp. 77 et seq.;
  • Z. Frankel's and Holdheim's opinions in Freund's Zur Judenfraye in Deutschland, 1843, i. 266-271;
  • Theodore Reinach, Judaei, in Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romains, p. 624;
  • Stobbe, Juden in Deutschland, 1866, pp. 146, 169, 269;
  • Aronius, Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden, Nos. 313a, 603;
  • Scherer, Die Rechtsverhältnisse der Juden in Deutsch-Oesterreichischen Landen, 1901, pp. 225-262.
  • For the older inscriptions of Palestine, Syria, Africa, Asia Minor, Rome, and the Crimea, see the literature in Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 28-31;
  • compare also M. Schwab, Répertoire, p. 462, s.v. Epitaphes, Paris, 1900;
  • Jewish Encyclopedia, i. 509b, 510b.
  • For Altona-Hamburg-Glückstadt: Grunwald, Portugiesen-Gräber auf Deutscher Erde, Hamburg, 1902.
  • For Amsterdam, especially: S. F. Mulder, Jêts over de Begraafsplaatsen der Nederl. Isr. Gemeente te Amsterdam, 1851;
  • and De Castro, Keurvan Grafsteenen, Leyden, 1883.
  • For Barcelona: F. Fita, Boletin, xvii. 190-200.
  • For Brest-Litovsk: Feinstein, , Warsaw, 1886.
  • For Cincinnati: Publications Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. viii. 54.
  • For Cracow: J. M. Zunz, , Lemberg, 1874;
  • and Friedberg, , Drohobicz, 1897.
  • For Curaçao: J. M. Corcos, Jews in Curaçao.
  • For Dijon: Gerson, in Rev. Et. Juives, vi. 222 et seq.
  • For Dubno: P. Pesis, Die Stadt Dubno, Cracow, 1902.
  • For Frankfort-on-the-Main: Horowitz, Inschriften des Alten Friedhofs, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1901.
  • For Fürth, etc.: Brann, in Kaufmann-Gedenkbuch, pp. 385 et seq., Breslau, 1900;
  • Büchler, ib. pp. 451 et seq.;
  • Karpeles, ib. p. 505.
  • For Gerona: F. Fita, Lapidas Hebreas de Gerona, Gerona, 1871.
  • For Grodno: Friedenstein, , Wilna, 1880.
  • For Jerusalem: Frumkin, , Wilna, 1873;
  • and A. L. Brisk, , Jerusalem, 1901 et seq.
  • For Lancaster, Pa.; Publications Am. Jew. Hist. Soc., ix. 29 et seq.
  • For Lemberg: G. Suchostaw, , 1863-1869;
  • and S. Buber, .
  • For Lublin: Nissenbaum, , Lublin, 1899.
  • For Macon: Loeb, in Rev. Et. Juives, v. 104.
  • For Mayence: Salfeld, Martyrologium, p. 428.
  • For Newport: Publications Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. vi. 61, 67;
  • A. P. Mendes, in Rhode Island Hist. Magazine, vi. 84-105.
  • For New York: Daly, Settlement of the Jews in North America, pp. 34-44;
  • Janvier, In Old New York, New York, 1894.
  • For Nikolsburg: Feuchtwang, in Kaufmann-Gedenkbuch.
  • For Nuremberg: Schudt, Jüdische Merkwürdigkeiten.
  • For Philadelphia: Publications Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. i. 20;
  • H. Morais, The Jews of Philadelphia, pp. 200-205.
  • For Philadelphia and Richmond: Publications Am. Jew. Hist. Soc. vi. 107 et seq.
  • For Prague: K. Lieben, , Prague, 1856;
  • S. Hock, Die Familien Prag's, Presburg, 1892;
  • M. Popper, Inschriften des Alten Prager Juden Friedhofes, Braunschweig, 1893;
  • B. Foges, Alterthümer der Prager Josefstadt, Prague, 1882.
  • For Presburg: Weisz, , Paks, 1900.
  • For Rome: Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 49;
  • Berliner, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, passim.
  • For Segovia: Boletin, ix. 265 et seq.
  • For Seville: F. Fita, in Boletin, xvii. 174-184.
  • For Switzerland: J. C. Ulrich, Sammlung Jüdischer Geschichten, Zurich, 1770.
  • For Toledo: S. D. Luzzatto, , Prague, 1841.
  • For Triest: A. Luzzatto, , Triest, 1851.
  • For Venice: A. Berliner, , Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1881 (continued in the annual , iii., cols. 573-586).
  • For Vienna: L. A. Frankl, Inschriften des Alten Jüdischen Friedhofs, Vienna, 1855.
  • For Warsaw: S. Jewnin, , Warsaw, 1882,
  • For Wilna: S. Fuenn, , Wilna, 1860;
  • H. N. Maggid, , ib. 1900 et seq.
  • For Worms: L. Lewysohn, , Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1855;
  • Wolf, Gesch. der Juden in Worms, p. 81, Breslau, 1862.
E. C. K.