Monday, 24 December 2007

Regulations of the Cemetery

Old ground belonging to the Portuguese Jews.

Description of the tombs.

Funeral ceremonies.

The old burying-ground belonging to the Portuguese Jews was first used for that purpose about the year 1657 in London, and at an earlier date in Barbados. In this ground the dead are interred in rows, a certain space being allowed for each grave. The spot contiguous to that last occupied, is used for the next person who dies, whether rich or poor; except in a few instances, where a burial-place purchased for a considerable sum has been reserved near the grave of some near relation. Many graves do not have tombstones. This is particularly the case in Barbadoes, due to the high cost of bringing a stone across from England. The earliest burials in Barbadoes do not , with a few notable exceptions, have Tombstones, and that oldest part of the graveyard has much open ground.

The same grave is never opened a second time, it being reckoned a most impious and sacrilegious act to disturb the ashes of the deceased. The tombs are some of free stone, others of marble.

The bye-laws of the synagogue direct that those of adults shall be six feet and a half long, three wide, and one foot and a half high, including the ledger-stone.
In Barbadoes these rules apply, however some tombs have variable heights, and have carved stone tombs.

The tombs of children are of the same height, but only four feet long, and two and a half broad . Some of the tombs are ornamented with emblematical devices , and basso relievos, representing portions of scripture history .

The inscriptions are principally in Hebrew and Portuguese, some are in English.

The funeral ceremonies used by the Portuguese Jews are as follows: When the body of the deceased has been washed and dressed, which, except for children, is done by persons of the same sex, it is put into the coffin, which is generally plain deal, or covered with black. It is then conveyed to a brick building adjoining to the cemetery, called a Hall, where those who attend the funeral, if the deceased is a male of more than 13 years of age, go seven times round the corpse, repeating a prayer . It is then carried to the grave; and being there deposited, the nearest relation of the deceased first throws in earth, the other attendants assist in filling up the grave, while the 91st psalm is repeated in Hebrew.

Persons who have been notoriously wicked are interred in a place apart from the congregation, without any funeral ceremonies.

There is a fund (arising from legacies which are recorded on boards in the hall) for assisting the sick poor at their own houses, and burying their dead; a certain sum to maintain the family during the mourning week , during which, the precepts of their religion do not permit the Jews to work.

Isaac Abraham Hisquiau Gabay Isidro, Rabbi of the congregation at Barbadoes, d. 1755, is buried in London, not in Barbadoes.

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