We call a tombstone or a gravestone a matzevah (“מצבה”). The matzevah is a monument and is part of our Jewish heritage. When Jacob buried his wife Rachel, he raised a tombstone over her grave (Genesis 35:19-20).
Jewish tombstones come in many different styles, but there are some features common to them all. Headstones are usually simple, upright rectangular slabs. In many cases, the top of the slab is gently angled or curved rather than perfectly rectangular. In some cases it is curved into an arch. In Israeli cemeteries, it is not unusual to find tombstones that are horizontal as well as upright.
Jewish tombstones are usually inscribed in Hebrew and English. The inscription gives the name of the deceased and dates of birth and death, using secular and Jewish calendars. At the top of most Jewish tombstones is the abbreviation פנ, which stands for “here lies”. At the end of many tombstone inscriptions the abbreviation תנצבה is found. This abbreviation comes from a verse in the first book of Samuel, 25:29, “May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life”.
Jewish tombstones are meant to demonstrate respect for the deceased through their quiet, modest dignity. They are often decorated with Jewish symbols such as a Star of David or a menorah or the Ten Commandments. They may also be adorned with other words or with artwork.
Winkler & Sons provides a variety of upright and horizontal headstone styles, including single headstones. These are chosen when the stone will mark one person’s grave. Single headstones may be large and decorative headstones, although more traditional Jewish people may prefer smaller, less decorative stones.
There are Jewish couples who prefer double headstones in which husband and wife lie beside one another in death as they did in life. Double headstones may be simple or ornate, in keeping with personal beliefs and preferences. Our Customer Service Representative will work with you, taking in to account your beliefs and preferences as well as your individual family budget.
Some Jewish families choose to erect a family headstone on which the family name is inscribed. Family members are buried around the family headstone, and their graves are marked by small ground stones rather than upright headstones.
An example of a Family Headstone created by Winkler and installed in the USA is depicted in the photograph above.