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© Douglas Hykle
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Tombstones of Tluste/Tovste’s Jewish Cemetery

Jewish cemetery of Tovste - panorama

The following pages display a selection of nearly 40 tombstones that I photographed in the Jewish cemetery in October 2006. I estimate that this represents about 10 percent of the total. My aim was to test the feasibility of properly documenting all of the tombstones remaining in the cemetery. I am very grateful to Sara Mages, who has done a wonderful job to transcribe and translate these tombstones from Hebrew into English, with remarkable efficiency.

Only three of the 40 tombstones I photographed were virtually illegible. Most of the others were completely or almost completely readable; except for the year and/or month of death (in about 10 instances). In some of these latter cases, the missing details may have resulted from obstructive vegetation or an unclear image, which might be ameliorated on another visit.

Although the sample of tombstones selected was not random, and may well have been biased towards stones that were more clearly readable, this result holds out the promise that a substantial proportion - I would guess at least 2/3 to 3/4 - of the tombstones will yield substantial information.

The tombstones shown on the following pages have been organised chronologically, ranging from the oldest to the most recent year of death: 1839 to 1935. This arrangement might be useful if one is looking for an individual, and one knows approximately when that person died. However, it's easy to see how this system might become unwieldy for a complete listing of 400 or more tombstones.

Also, reordering them by year could have the undesired consequence of concealing useful information: for example, by "displacing" tombstones relating to family members buried close together in space (and therefore photographed together), but not in time. If organised instead according to spatial proximity of the tombstones, some educated guesses might be made about missing data (such as year of death), if it were the case that individuals in nearby graves were buried during approximately the same period.

Looking ahead, if this exercise were extended to cover all of the tombstones in the cemetery:

Ideally, all of the information collected would be entered into a database, that would be searchable by name, year of death, location in the cemetery etc. The latter would require at least a rudimentary grid system, to allow one to pinpoint with reasonable accuracy the location of each tombstone. An aerial photograph would be extremely useful - and perhaps essential - for this purpose. The field work involved in documenting some 400+ tombstones would benefit from having two people on hand - one to clear away any obstructive vegetation and record the tombstone locations systematically, and another to take and eventually process all of the photographs. Sara Mages has demonstrated that, with experience and proper image enhancing software, the transcription and translation work might not be quite as time-consuming as one might expect, but it is still a big job nonetheless. The same is true for preparing the material for display.

The present exercise has demonstrated that, in principle, with sufficient time and resources, all of this can be achieved. If you consider the project of documenting the entire cemetery a worthwhile endeavour and would be prepared to help underwrite some of the costs - for example, of securing an aerial photograph and setting up a proper database for easy retreival of the information - please don't hesitate to contact me using the Feedback page.

Finally, a few notes from Sara Mages about the transcription and translation process:

A good portion of the Hebrew text on the tombstones is abbreviated. There are instances where only part of a word was inscribed on the stone, due to lack of space. The transliteraton reflects the original Hebrew grammar, as it was written. Note also that the term Reb is an honorific title, akin to "Herr" in German or "Mr" in English - it does not imply that the person was a Rabbi (the same is true for the expression "our teacher the rabbi"). However, one instance was found of a Ha'Rav [the Rabbi], and perhaps this person was indeed a Rabbi.

Links to Jewish Cemetery Tombstone pages:

Page 1 of 5:  Selected tombstones from 1838/39 - 1902

Page 2 of 5:  Selected tombstones from 1906 - 1919

Page 3 of 5:  Selected tombstones from 1919 - 1928

Page 4 of 5:  Selected tombstones from 1933 - 1935

Page 5 of 5:  Selected tombstones with illegible year of death

  Jewish cemetery of Tovste - panorama