By Ruth Ellen Gruber
People sometimes ask me how the Jewish tombstones (those of men as well as women) that I’ve documented in eastern Europe differ from the Christian ones. I’m no expert in this, but I thought I would post a couple pictures of carved tombstone crosses from northern Romania. Indeed, here as elsewhere mainstream carving styles, as well as folk and other motifs had an influence on Jewish tombstone imagery — particularly the decorative elements, but also some symbolic imagery. The tree of life was common, and the representations of the hand of God chopping down the Tree of Life (or cutting or breaking a branch from it) were found on Jewish as well as non-Jewish tombs (even in Puritan New England.)
These two tombs are in the yard of the painted church in the village of Arbore, near Radauti in northern Romania. The images on the crosses include grape vines (very similar to those on Jewish tombstones) as well as a bird, the sun and moon, a skull and crossbones (a common image, actually, on Sephardic tombs) — and a six-pointed star, looking like a rather out of place star of David.