V,7  A Walk through Jewish Rozalimas 

The only tangible proofs of Jewish life in today's Rozalimas are the synagogue and the cemetery.


Jewish cemetery

The Jewish cemetery is to be found on the road to Padubysys. So far, I haven’t found any documentation telling me when this cemetery was laid out and what the names were of the people who are buried there. According to Stefa, one of our eye-witnesses, the cemetery was laid out as soon as the Jewish community had settled in Rozalimas (in the 19th century). According to Vanda (the author of the book ‘Rozalimas’) the names of the Jewish people who were buried at the cemetery were: Noskis and Vilpkis Machatas. Lapida and Judelis (the tailor) died just before the big tragedy and were buried at the Jewish cemetery of Rozalimas in 1941.

There is a memorial stone on the edge of the cemetery, erected in the 1980th. The epitaph on the memorial stone reads: This is the old Jewish cemetery from Rozalimas. ‘Let them rest in peace’. The plaque (reading this text) was stolen recently. Up till now it’s only the picture that remains ...


Memorial stone
The plaque has been stolen after 1998

Eye-witnesses told me men and women walked together behind the bier, but at the end of the communityborder of Rozalimas/Padubysys the women returned home. I was told that when the mourners went home, they took sand from the cemetery with them.

Let’s ponder a bit on how the Jewish people take care of their dead and of their burying according to the laws of their religion. When a person has died, members of the Jewish undertaker’s business, called the ‘Chevrah Kadiesjah’ take care of the dead body and treat it with respect. The body is dead, but the soul of this dead human being isn’t. His/her soul goes back to God and the human body has served as a dwelling place for his/her soul. The Jewish men take care of the male corpse and the Jewish women take care of the female corpse. They wash, clean, dress it in white graveclothes and put it in a coffin which is without any luxury: The wood is plain and pure.

Before screwing down the coffin the members of the ‘Chevrah Kadiesjah’ throw some soil from ‘Erets-Israel’ into the coffin. Finally they light a candle or another light and put it next to the head of the dead body. This light serves as a symbol of the soul that has left the dead body already, and has gone back to God. People, friends, relatives, neighbours and members of the ‘Chevrah Kediesjah’ keep watch over the corpse. They quote the Psalms, they read passages from the Holy Scripture and they ‘lern’ while keeping watch over the dead body. Then the coffin is carried to the cemetery, where a grave was dug. The Hebrew name for cemetery is: ‘Beth-Hagajjiem’ which means dwelling of the living. The coffin is laid down in the grave and the closest relation to the deceased person throws three spades full of earth into the grave. The other mourners follow his example. In the end, when the grave is covered completely with earth, and one has quoted a passage from Ecclesiastes, one says the ‘Kaddiesj’ through which one praises and honours God and pronounces his/her trust in God and knows that God’s Kingdom will come for ever and ever. Then people leave the cemetery, but before they do so, they comfort the mourners by saying: “May the Holy One blessed be He comfort you amongst all the people who mourn Zion and Jerusalem”. After returning home they sit down and eat a very light meal together like bread and eggs. For the relatives the ‘Sjivah’ has begun, the 7 days of mourning. On the last day of the ‘Sjivah’ one of the members of the ‘Chevrah Kediesjah’ visits the mourning family for the last time. He/She quotes Jesaja 60:20 in which comfort and the ultimate trust in God is pronounced.

The ‘Sjivah’ is finished and normal life starts again.

The relatives who had lost one of their dearest still have to consider a period of mourning of one year for their father or mother, counted from the day of death. For other relatives there is a 30 days period of mourning, counted from the day of burial. During the whole year of mourning the relatives keep the ner-tamied (the light of either a candle or a small lamp) burning for the deceased, in this way expressing their piety. After a certain period of time members of the ‘Chevrah Kediesjah’ laid the commemorative stone upon the grave. Very soon afterwards the relatives of the deceased, accompanied by friends and neighbours go to the cemetery to attend the ceremony of the revelation of the gravestone or the headstone. Jewish attendants quote some Psalms and read some passages from the Misjnah (which is a part of the oral Torah). Finally, people go home leaving the deceased in peace.

In the picture of the headstone above the ‘Magen David’, the star of David, is clearly visible. Unfortunately the text can’t be read anymore , but at the top two letters in Hebrew can be read clearly, the P and the N, PN, which means: either Po Niqbar or Po Nitman ( either buried or put away here). I just wondered: Could it be the headstone of Irshkis’ grave who was shot dead in the forest of Rozalimas? Could it be Simse Machatas’ headstone who was shot dead next to an oak-tree outside Rozalimas.
The picture above shows the remains of either a gravestone or a headstone. At this Jewish cemetery we saw more remains of gravestones, but we couldn’t read the epitaphs on them anymore. Normally, on such a gravestone one can find a lot of information concerning the person who is buried, but now we can only guess. The text on the gravestone is written in Hebrew, sometimes together with a translation in the native language of the country where one is buried. Sometimes, on the gravestone, a pair of blessing hands (referring to the Cohens; the priests), sometimes a jug with a washbowl (referring to the Levites, the servants of the Temple) can be distinguished. On gravestones, one can also find the image of a shofar, ram’s horn trumpet, (referring to the person who blew the shofar at the various religious occasions) or the image of the instruments of the mohel (the person who does the circumcision when the baby-boy aged eight days enters into the convenant with God, ordered by God since the days of Abraham).

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  Copyright © 2005 Dora Boom

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