The University of South Florida
Symbols and Place: A Study of the Gravestones at the Historic Jewish Cemetery in Curagao
Honors College and Religious Studies Departmental Honors Thesis
Thesis Committee: Dr. Fisher (Director), and Dr. Strange
This thesis examines the gravestone symbolism at the historic Jewish cemetery in
Curagao. This cemetery contains very detailed, specific gravestone images that are unusual for
Jewish cemeteries, including depictions of people, angels, and death scenes. Because gravestones
act as a visual reference of the values, beliefs, and cultural environment of the people who used
them, this paper explores traditional Jewish gravestone symbols and the prohibition of graven
images in Judaism, and the importance of interpretation of this prohibition in Jewish symbols,
other Jewish cemeteries around the world including the Ouderkerk cemetery in the Netherlands,
and cultural and historical context of the time in which the gravestones were used in Curagao.
Specific symbols analyzed in this paper include traditional Jewish symbols such as the hands of
blessing and tree of life, and also representations of professions, especially ships, and also
depictions of people and angels. The combination of traditional Jewish symbolism for
gravestones and also uncommon gravestone symbols in the cemetery in Curagao suggests that
the gravestones communicate cross-culturally and express cultural and historical context of the
Jews of Curagao who used them. Other cemeteries considered in a comparative context to the
Beth Haim Curagao gravestone symbolism include the Ouderkerk cemetery in the Netherlands,
the Suriname Jewish cemeteries, and the Jewish cemetery in Rhode Island. The paper's central
focus is on gravestone symbolism as communicative tools that express cultural and historic
experiences through universal visual elements.
Gravestones present information in many ways. The data recorded on the stone such as
name, dates, and inscription informs viewers of different aspects of the deceased's life such as
their gender, age, and in many cases other personal information, including even details about
their family or how they died. We expect gravestone epitaphs to provide information because
they are inscribed using language, but often gravestones can be sources of information about
culture based on visual clues. Stones are arranged and organized in specific ways, and this
organization was intentional and prepared by the people who used the cemetery. The goal of
interpreting visual information from gravestones is to better understand the people who designed,
arranged, and organized them. In this way, gravestone symbolism can be studied as a reflection
of the cultural values of the society who employed it.1 Gravestone symbols are not just
decoration or artistic expression, but rather greatly enhance the stone's communicative property.
When people consider gravestones, they tend to focus on the epitaphs-what is written
rather than additional visual information, and as Minna Rozen writes about the Haskiy cemetery
in Turkey: "My training as an historian had actually interfered with the work involved, until it
dawned on me that there was historical value not only in the epitaph but also in the stone's
composition, type, shape, artwork, location in the cemetery, and origin."2 When present on
gravestones, images and symbols present another layer of information in addition to the epitaph.
If we consider that the epitaph was written a certain way to contain specific information: name,
dates, personal information, then we must also realize that visual elements of graves were also
chosen and specifically designed to communicate to the viewer of the stone. What is fascinating
about gravestone symbols is that often their messages are subtler than written epitaphs, and the
1 See Mike Parker Pearson, The Archaeology of Death and Burial. (Phoenix Mill: Sutton Publishing Limited) 1999.
Published in the United States by Texas A&M University Press, 2000.
2 Minna Rozen, H,. i.. Cemetery Typology of Stones (Tel Aviv University and the University of Pennsylvania,
visual information often provides additional, more intuitive information about the person who is
buried or even about the community who buried them. I consider symbolism more intuitive than
written language because people respond differently to symbols than to words. Symbols do not
have clear definitions or boundaries, whereas language does. Furthermore, in terms of
gravestones, words describing emotions are often less evocative than images that portray
emotion, and this subtle difference becomes quite significant when involving death monuments,
and shows "sepulchral art as a means of tapping information that only imagery can yield."3 An
epitaph that describes grief at the loss of a person takes on additional emotional value when
accompanied by a depiction expressing the loss. That is the nature of symbols; they are
communicative tools that cause a reaction. Also, symbols communicate on different levels.
Symbols can be communal and universal, and these different levels can limit or enhance
communicative properties. By overlooking the visual, intuitive and yet still organized elements
of cemeteries, we are neglecting a significant portion of the material culture of the cemetery.
These symbols are visual evidence of what the deceased, or the community who arranged the
stone, wanted displayed and remembered. Gravestones function as memorials: they offer details
about the deceased, comfort to loved ones, yet eventually they become invaluable pieces of
history that can teach us about the past.
The old Jewish cemetery in Curagao is one such cemetery. Its variety of gravestone
languages, inscriptions, and most of all symbols offer endless opportunities for study. The Jewish
cemetery in Curagao has very detailed gravestone images that reveal much about the people's
lives, including decorative patterns and symbols on the gravestones, as well as representations of
professions and ways that people died, and this is seen in Isaac Emmanuel's Precious Stones of
3 Aviva Ben-Ur. "Still Life: Sephardi, Ashkenazi, and West African Art and Form in Suriname's Jewish
Cemeteries." American Jewish History 92:1 (2004), 46.
the Jews of Curagao: Curagaon Jewry 1656-1957. Emmanuel notes that the gravestones were
significant to the people of Curagao, and they took much effort in choosing them for their
families.4 It is no wonder, then, that the gravestones are so detailed and powerful. The images on
the stones in Curagao present valuable insight into cultural attitudes toward religion and
memorials. The distinctive symbolism in Curagao allows for an examination of beliefs, attitudes,
and interpretations of some of the Jews of Curagao, specifically the symbolism seen on some of
the gravestones from the late 1600s through early 1800s when these depictions of people,
professions, and biblical scenes occur. By exploring the cemetery in Curagao, known as Beth
Haim which means "House of Life" and is a name used for Jewish cemeteries, and comparing
the visual elements of the cemetery with other Jewish cemeteries from the same time, this
paper's goal is to better understand the relationship between place, context, and religious practice
and how these elements are depicted through gravestone symbolism.
In Section One, I will present traditional Jewish gravestone symbols, and the uncommon
symbols of people present in the cemetery in Curagao in a comparative analysis based on the
communicative accessibility of the symbols: whether or not they require religious knowledge, or
whether they convey a message on a more universal level. Following Emmanuel's detailed
categories of Curagao's gravestone images, in Section Two I will focus on types of symbolism;
specifically, representations of people and professions.5 By looking further into the meanings and
connotations of these symbols, and their use on the gravestones, I will explore the relationship
between religion, place and historical context in the use of these gravestone symbols. Section
Three will further explore the relationship between place, historical experience, and gravestone
4 Isaac S. Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curacao: Curacaon Jewry 1656-1957 (New York: Bloch
Publishing Company, 1957), see Chapter 8, "Monuments," pages 117-122.
5 Ibid., 124-129.
symbols by examining these aspects in the Ouderkerk cemetery in The Netherlands and other
Sephardic cemeteries. Finally, based on the preceding analysis, I will explore some of the
possible reasons why these incredibly detailed and informative symbols are found in some
Jewish cemeteries during this time period and how this offers a better understanding of the
relationship between place and historical context and religion.
Information on graven images and Jewish death symbolism in relation to Curagao
Edwin Dethlefsen and James Deetz have explored gravestone symbolism and cultural
change. While their focus was on changes in symbolism in Colonial American cemeteries and
not Jewish gravestone symbolism, they analyzed gravestone symbolism changes as reflections of
changes in cultural attitudes: "detailing the dynamics of change in material objects as a function
of changes in the society which produced them."6 If Dethlefsen and Deetz's understandings are
applied to the Curagao cemetery, the cultural factors of Curagao, as well as historical and social
forces, offer insight into the gravestone symbolism. Dethlefsen and Deetz focused on a limited
area in Massachusetts in analyzing symbolism change within a specific community. This paper is
interested in the variations of Jewish gravestone symbolism in Curagao as compared with other
examples of symbolism in other Jewish cemeteries, including the Ouderkerk cemetery in the
Netherlands as well as the Jewish cemeteries in Suriname and the Colonial Jewish cemetery in
6 Edwin Dethlefsen and James Deetz, "Death's Heads, Cherubs, and Willow Trees: Experimental Archaeology in
Colonial Cemeteries" American Antiquity, 31, no. 4 (Apr. 1966), 502-510, accessed through JSTOR:
Newport, Rhode Island, emphasizing the relationship between gravestone symbolism variations
in these Jewish cemeteries and the cultural environments in which they are found.
Dethlefsen and Deetz recognized the important role of religion in interpreting changes in
gravestone symbolism: "The distinctive symbols employed as decorative elements are in part a
function of religion, and therefore changes in this aspect of culture can be investigated as they
relate to other areas of change."7 In Curagao, the common factor behind the gravestones in the
Beth Haim cemetery is that they all were members of the Jewish community on the island.
Symbolism variations among gravestones in the Beth Haim Curagao can be understood as
influenced by date, historical factors, individual design preferences, and also whether or not the
individual or their family could afford to commission a detailed gravestone.
The Jewish community of Curagao was a branch of the Dutch Jewish community, and the
gravestone symbolism reflects these similarities even though the cemeteries are physically
located across the world. The Dutch Jewish community (which was extended to Curagao) was
given religious freedoms by the political power and was thus not directly affected by political
religious intolerance such as the Inquisition while under Dutch authority. However, the Dutch
Jewish communities were historically shaped by these cultural factors, considering that the
Dutch Jewish community was founded by Jews who had to flee from the Iberian Peninsula. In
short, while the Curagao Jews were granted religious tolerance, the community was historically
oppressed. In this paper I am interested in determining the cultural factors behind the unusual
gravestone symbolism seen in Curagao; specifically, these factors are: Judaism, Dutch political
religious tolerance and other political religious intolerance, professional experiences such as
trade, and communal values and beliefs. These experiences and cultural influences are echoed in
the gravestone symbolism in Curagao and express the interaction between cultural factors and
religion through the inclusion of unusual Jewish death symbols in conjunction with traditional,
more widely seen Jewish symbols.
When I refer to unusual Jewish symbols in terms of their presence on gravestones, I am
specifically referencing: images of people, heavenly beings such as angels and heavenly hands
and arms, depictions of secular professions, and depictions of biblical scenes that include people.
When I refer to traditional, more widely expected Jewish symbols seen on gravestones I am
referencing: decorative patterns, floral motifs, the tree of life, geometric designs, the hands of
blessing and the pitcher of water which reference religious group associations, which are
essentially reflective of religious professions. This distinction is significant considering the
Jewish religious prohibition against graven images which are typically thought to include
depictions of God, angels, people, and even animals, which will be discussed further in this
paper. Often, Jewish symbolisms avoid these things, but some of the graves in the Dutch
Sephardic Jewish cemeteries of Curagao and its parent community in Ouderkerk depict these
very detailed images. Since this was a conscious reinterpretation or avoidance of the religious
prohibition against graven images, it suggests that cultural factors besides religion influenced
these gravestone symbols.
The cemeteries studied by Dethlefsen and Deetz were used between the 1680s and early
1800s.8 Emmanuel dates the cemetery in Curagao back to 1659.9 This means that the cemeteries
historically overlap. This is relevant because a variation of the "death's head" that Dethlefsen
8 Ibid., 503.
9 Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curagao, 34.
and Deetz study is also visible in the Curagao cemetery, the skull and crossbones (see figure 1).
This suggests that the symbol is not necessarily specific to religious tradition since Dethlefsen
and Deetz study Christian cemeteries and the Beth Haim is a Jewish cemetery, and may in fact
rather be connected to the historical time in which it is present in both areas. Dethlefsen and
Deetz describe the symbol: "Death's Head. Usually some type of winged skull, this design is
early in New England and is found on the oldest stones as the most common motif. At times it is
combined with other elements such as bones, hourglasses, coffins, and palls."10 Dethlefsen and
Deetz's study illustrates that changes in symbolism are connected to other cultural factors, and
this is true for the cemetery in Curagao and can be seen by the combination of traditional Jewish
burial symbols with unusual Jewish burial symbols on some of the gravestones.
In general, cemeteries evoke numerous feelings in the observer. When I visited the
cemetery in Curagao, what I experienced most was amazement at the vast amount of information
the cemetery offers: both about individuals, but also about history in a wider context. Rochelle
Weinstein writes about the history of one family's experiences in Europe and Curagao, and also
connects their gravestone images with their art collection and their life experiences." While
Weinstein focuses on the Senior family, it follows that others in Curagao had similar influences
that impacted their choices in gravestone symbolism at the Curagao cemetery as well. Weinstein
discusses the gravestone symbolism in Curagao as an expression of the relationship between
Judaism and the historical environment in which the gravestones were made: "The stones are our
visual, metaphorical connection to a group of people whose skills and motivations, conditioned
in part by their religion and national origin, brought them into the center of history at a critical
10 Dethlefsen and Deetz, 503.
" Rochelle Weinstein, "Stones of Memory: Revelations from a Cemetery in Curagao" in Sephardim in the
Americas, ed. Martin A. Cohen and Abraham J. Peck (United States of America: American Jewish Archives), 1993.
moment."12 This focus on the relationship between religion and environment is extremely
significant when studying the gravestone symbolism in Curagao, including traditional symbols
and also symbols of people, secular professions, and heavenly beings. In Curagao some
gravestones contain very detailed, specific images that are striking to the viewer. They are
fascinating because they contain traditional elements of Jewish symbolism (such as the tree of
life) but also contain depictions of people, and biblical scenes featuring biblical characters who
relate to the deceased either through name, profession, or experience. This combination of
traditional symbolism and specified symbolism suggests a focus on tradition within the context
of a changing cultural environment.
The cemetery contains many languages: English, Dutch, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and
Portuguese, but beyond written language the visual language of the cemetery is significant due to
its relationship with traditional Jewish symbolism and the prohibition against graven images.13
Emmanuel notes the variations of the gravestone images found in Curagao, specifically images
of people portrayed on gravestones:
On the whole it was very difficult for Jews, forbidden to make images, to portray
anything outside of arabesques, plants or synagogal objects. Our cemetery, like that of
Amsterdam, presents an anomaly. The second commandment: 'Thou shalt not make unto
thee any graven image' was not always abided by, not even on tombs reserved for the
Chief Rabbis. The subjects, moreover, were depicted with a liberality that one is amazed
to find in a Jewish cemetery dating back two hundred fifty years.14
While the laws against graven images generally refer to not worshipping images of people or
animals, they do not necessarily prohibit depictions of people or animals as artistic forms. These
12 Ibid., 131.
13 Isaac S. Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curagao, 111.
14 Ibid., 123.
can be seen in numerous ancient Jewish settings.15 These images were used in Jewish art for
many years before they were employed on the gravestones in Curagao. The symbols themselves
are not necessarily surprising, but what Emmanuel and others are responding to when they note
the difficulty in portraying images of people on Jewish gravestones is that the prohibition against
graven images has been interpreted by many people differently over time and many
interpretations include representations of people, animals, and angels in general to be prohibited,
while others conclude that only worshipping these images is prohibited. The "liberality" that
Emmanuel is responding to is in terms of the strict interpretations of the prohibition against
graven images. Even some ancient Jewish representations of "graven images" of people and
animals have been destroyed by other Jews who did not think they were appropriate.16 This
illustrates the controversy behind images of people and angels and animals in Jewish art as an
issue throughout much of Jewish art history. Rachel Hachlili notes that ancient Jewish burial
practices reinforced elements of community, and she also correlates changes in burial practices
in the Second Temple period with political changes.17 This is relevant in terms of the symbolism
in the Jewish cemetery in Curagao because it shows that cultural context influenced Jewish burial
practices for centuries.
15 See Rachel Hachlili, "The Zodiac in Ancient Jewish Art: Representations and Significance" Bulletin of the
American Schools of Oriental Research no. 228 (Dec. 1977). Accessed through JSTOR:
1lip "', %, %, jsi i ,i.,' ,'si.ikbl/1356500. This article discusses examples of zodiac symbolism in ancient Jewish
synagogues. See also Edwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period. Abridged edition, ed.
Jacob Neusner. Bollingen Series, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. See especially Chapter Four, "Pagan
Symbols in Judaism: Astronomical Symbols" beginning on page 116.
16 Ibid. Hachlili writes: "The synagogue floor at Na'aran is especially interesting because of its destruction by
Jewish iconoclasts who removed the human and animal figures, leaving the inscriptions," 61. Further, Hachlili
writes that there was Roman influence on the chosen zodiac symbolism. This cultural relationship behind the choice
of symbolism, similarly to the Curagao cemetery centuries later, suggests that it was influenced by the outside, non-
Jewish culture and modified to fit the Jewish religious situation in which these symbols were used. Thus, the
presence of these symbols-sometimes considered "graven images"-shows an element of the relationship between
religious practice and place, or surrounding culture and context.
17 Rachel Hachlili. Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in the Land of Israel. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988, 100.
It is important to recognize that ancient Jewish art contained representations of people,
animals, angelic figures, and other decorative elements. Hachlili writes: "Jewish figurative art is
an extensive and essential part of Jewish art in Late Antiquity." Again, the important factor is
interpretation of the prohibition against graven images: "At the time, the rabbis emphasized the
latter part of the sentence 'Thou shalt not worship them,' the prohibition concerning the worship
of idols. The Jews of this period were indeed unafraid of idolatry."19 Because these depictions
were permitted as long as they were not worshipped, they occur frequently in ancient Jewish art.
Hachlili makes a point to note that many of these images are depicted on floors that were
"continually being trodden upon" which, she suggests, shows the avoidance of worship of these
images.20 This shows that even though the actual images were permitted, the prohibition of
worship of graven images was consciously observed in the ways that the images were displayed.
Ancient Jewish art and gravestone symbolism in Curagao are separated by many years and
religious and historical events in Judaism. However, the cautious yet frequent representation of
figurative images in ancient Jewish art offers important background information that is necessary
for understanding the symbols on the gravestones in Curagao in terms of their role in Jewish art
history and within the context of "graven images."
In terms of Curagao, we can interpret the presence of depictions of people, professions,
biblical scenes, death scenes, and angels as evidence that the people who used them did not
consider the depiction of these images as sinful, but rather probably focused, like the ancient
Jewish rabbis, on the prohibition against worshipping them. In this sense, they are informative
elements of material culture: they show how this community at this time interpreted the
18 Ibid., 285.
19 Ibid., 287.
20 Ibid., 379. Italics in Hachlili's text.
prohibition of graven images, and also employed these images as communicative tools on
gravestones. The Jewish community in Curagao was extremely focused on religious belief and
practice and was an observant community that would not depict scenes on their gravestones
which they considered sinful. Throughout Emmanuel's Precious Stones of the Jews of Curacao
and History of the Jews of the Netherlands Antilles, he shows how significant religion was to the
life of the early Jews of Curagao.21 The Inquisition seriously affected the religious lives of Jews
during this time, causing many Sephardic Jews to have to live as Christians. Emmanuel lists
reasons for the gravestone symbols in Curagao, and of these he includes: Christian influence
from Portugal, art, and grief for the loss of the person.22 Clearly, the gravestone symbols are
loaded with religious, historical, communal, and personal meanings.
An important element of the Curagao cemetery is the beautifully detailed gravestones, but
these gravestones have a function as tools for memory and I believe that the images and symbols
employed on the gravestones are influenced by place. By "place" I mean not only physical
location, but also the cultural factors associated with place such as politics, history, and available
resources. Roberta Halpom contrasts the Curagao gravestone images with Sephardic cemeteries
in the United States from the same time.23 She writes: "The simplicity of the New York stones is
even more remarkable because there was constant travel between the two Jewish communities,
and the Americans must surely have known what the southern markers looked like."24 The burial
21 Isaac S. Emmanuel and Suzanne A. Emmanuel, History of the Jews of the Netherlands Antilles (Cincinnati:
American Jewish Archives, 1970). See specifically Chapter Six, kIeliigill Zeal 1717-1740" which describes the
funding for the synagogue as well as experiences of "Marranos" re-converted back to Judaism.
22 Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curacao, 124
23 Roberta Halporn, "American Jewish Cemeteries: A Mirror of History," Ethnicity and the American Cemetery ed.
Richard E. Meyer (Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Press, 1993).
24 Ibid., 136.
symbols differ between locations, and this suggests that cultural factors that influenced the
interpretation of death symbolism in these communities, including life experiences, were
affected by place. David de sola Pool also notes these differences in gravestone symbolism
between the Jewish cemeteries in New York and Curagao:
One looks in vain for any of that elaborate baroque, but sometimes masterly, carving of
Biblical scenes or coats of arms in relief which distinguishes many of the older stones in
the cemetery of the parent Sephardic community in Amsterdam, or in that of Middelburg,
Hamburg-Altona, Venice, Leghorn, or Curagao. Here in New Amsterdam and the later
New York, there is nothing but the bare legend of the epitaph.25
Halporn notes that the Curagao cemetery displays typical Christian symbols.26 This blend
of Christian and Jewish symbolism in Curagao, while unusual for Jewish cemeteries, can be
expected in Caribbean Jewish cemeteries when one considers the blended religious life
experiences of the people who used the cemeteries. Further, many of the gravestones in Curagao
were made in the Netherlands (possibly by Christian sculptors) and shipped to Curagao.
Interestingly, de sola Pool also notes that some of the gravestones in New York were imported
from Europe because it was probably difficult for the Hebrew epitaph to be carved in New York
at that time.27 This reinforces the relationship between place and gravestone symbolism; many of
the gravestones in Curagao were made in Europe and shipped to the island, yet they display
Gravestones are marked with emotional and psychological significance. The observations
that both Emmanuel and Halporn make about the unique symbols of the Curagao cemetery show
25 David de sola Pool, Portraits Etched in Stone: Early Jewish Settlers 1682-1831. (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1952), 162.
26 Halporn, 133.
27 De sola Pool, 166.
that many of the Curagao graves were thoughtfully considered by either the person whose grave
it was to be or by their family, meaning that the symbols were carefully chosen. Anything made
by humans is shaped by human intention and consideration, and the gravestone symbols in
Curagao- in connection with the rules and interpretation of graven images-imply that the
Curagao Jewish community who commissioned, maintained, and utilized these gravestones
either avoided the graven image prohibition or interpreted it in a way that did not include these
David Goberman focuses on gravestones in Europe, but his observations about Jewish
cemeteries and imagery are relevant for this study because Goberman offers many visual
references to other Jewish gravestones in other places and sheds light on the issue of graven
images. Goberman discusses gravestone symbols:
We need to remember that the development of Jewish art was constrained by the
widespread acceptance of the famous Biblical prohibition against the depiction of the
animal world, so that such images would not, like the golden calf, become an object of
veneration. In reality, such imagery existed in Jewish art from ancient times...Human
images are extremely rare on the gravestones. In those situations where a human being is
represented, the artist will show, instead of the whole figure, only an arm, the part in
place of the whole, or the carver will substitute an animal or a bird for a human
being...Human virtues are represented by images of the animal world.28
Goberman's observations about European Jewish gravestones offer an interesting contrast to the
cemetery in Curagao where detailed, specific images of people are depicted on some
gravestones, in addition to arms from above and angels. There are differences between
Ashkenazi and Sephardic burial customs that must be taken into consideration, and one example
of this is seen through the orientation of gravestones in cemeteries. Sephardic cemeteries
28 David Goberman, Carved Memories: Heritage in Stone from the Russian Jewish Pale (New York: Rizzoli
International Publications, Inc., 2000), 16-17.
typically have flat gravestones, whereas Ashkenazi graves are typically raised.29 This variation in
ritual surely also accounts for differences in gravestone symbols. However, both communities
were restricted by the prohibition of graven images.
The central factor for understanding the role of "graven images" and gravestone
symbolism is interpretation of the prohibition. Steven Schwarzchild presents a discussion of
graven images from the Schulchan' Aruch:
What God, man, and angelic beings have in common that excludes them from all possible
artistic representation is the possession of spirit, or soul; clearly the thesis of the Law is
that spirit as such is unsusceptible to depiction. God, who is all spirit, can, therefore, not
However, Schwarzchild also presents that the specifics behind what exactly is allowed
(body parts as representation of the whole, distorted figures, etc.) is debatable. Clearly, this is
one of the attention-grabbing aspects of the symbolism in the Curagao cemetery; in Curagao one
can see angels, people, and heavenly hands cutting down the tree of life on gravestones. These
depictions are not often allowed in Jewish cemeteries. However, considering that the specifics of
what exactly is allowed are so debatable, I interpret these gravestone symbols in Curagao as
reflective of a society who did not consider them sinful but rather employed them as
communicative tools that expressed the relationship between religion and culture: "The history
of Jewish funerary art is replete with various types of ornamentation...The tension between the
29 Ben-Ur, "Still Life: Sephardi, Ashkenazi, and West African Art and Form in Suriname's Jewish Cemeteries."
30 Steven S. Schwarzchild, "The Legal Foundation of Jewish Aesthetics." Journal of Aesthetic Education 9:1.
Special Issue: Aesthetic Education in Civilization Perspective (Jan., 1975). Accessed through JSTOR:
Biblical prohibitions and actual practice was often a function of relations between Jewish and
non-Jewish society at a given time."31
For example, in the Curagao cemetery, which was a largely Sephardic community,
children's graves often depicted angels and also referred to the child as "anjo" (angel) on the
gravestones.32 This metaphorically associates the child with a heavenly being and uses what may
be considered a graven image (an angel) to do so. This shows that the understandings of graven
images are largely up to interpretation, and also shows the emotional impact that the community
felt at the loss of a child and the ways this was expressed through gravestone symbols. This
further illustrates the ways in which symbolism enhances a gravestone's communicative quality.
If the stone simply was engraved with the word "anjo," its communicative elements would be
restricted by language barriers. However, the word "anjo" as well as the widely recognizable
depiction of an angel on the small gravestone of a child captures these emotions more powerfully
and expresses to the viewer that this is the grave of a young child, since "anjo" is typically only
on graves of those who died under the age of 13, and that the family felt tremendous grief at their
death and expressed this through written and visual language (see figure 2).3
In order to understand the impact of the gravestones in Curagao, it is necessary to
consider Jewish symbols that one can expect to find in many Jewish cemeteries around the
world. This provides a clearer comparison between traditional symbols and the intricate
depictions of people, professions, and angels seen in Curagao's Beth Haim. Halporn discusses
general Jewish burial symbols:
31 Minna Rozen, 53.
32 Mariette Kamphuis and Emmar van Duin. They That are Born are Destined to Die and the Dead to be Brought to
Life Again (Curagao: Congregation Mikv6 Israel-Emanuel, 2001).
The pitcher and ewer, standing for a Levite (or servant of the priests); The hands of
blessing, which signify a Cohen, descendent of the ancient priests of Israel; The Lulav
and Etrog, a palm branch and citrus fruit, associated with the harvest festival of Sukkot;
The Ez Chaim, the Tree of Life...Another ancient symbol frequently employed is a
representation of the door of the Ark which contained the Torah... The symbol of learning
and religiosity was also represented by a bookcase full of scholarly tomes...In the middle
European Jewish cemeteries, the custom developed of creating images which were
representations of the meaning of a person's name...Other representations are less literal
(and in some instances not solely restricted to Judaic symbolism), such as broken lilies
for a small child, a serpent swallowing its tail as an emblem of infinity, or the crown, a
symbol of both learning and piety.34
As both Goberman and Halporn show, these symbols on gravestones are loaded with meaning.
As seen in my photographs of the cemetery in Curagao, as well as Emmanuel's detailed
photographs within Precious Stones of the Jews of Curacao, the Beth Haim cemetery contains
gravestones with beautiful and individualized depictions that focus on remembrance and act as
tools for communication to the viewer of the stone. Each gravestone tells a brief history about
the individual buried there through symbols and text, and when multiple gravestones are
considered, more can be learned about the community who used and maintained the cemetery.
Erwin R. Goodenough's central question for exploring ancient Jewish art and symbolism is
applicable to the study of these gravestones in Curagao:
The question regarding Jewish symbolism is, then: If the designs were not put into the
synagogues and tombs casually, just to look pretty, but to do something to those who
made them, to those who looked at them as they worshipped, and for those who finally
were buried beneath them, what was their value, what was it hoped that they would do?35
Symbols have a function. In Curagao, they communicate the experiences of the people who used
them. They shed light on the geographical, historical, and cultural environment in which they
were used. In terms of the influence of place and religion, Isaac S. Emmanuel discusses the
influence of life in the Caribbean on Jews in Curacao:
34 Halporn, "American Jewish Cemeteries," 152-154.
35 Goodenough, Abridged edition, 59.
The Curagaon Jew sailed the seas either as navigator, bookkeeper, supercargo or
merchant. En route, despite his religious zeal, it was impossible to observe to the letter all
the rabbinic prescriptions, especially those relating to ritual diet. Arriving in Curagao
after a long absence, he would bring with him the first symptoms of a discreet
liberalism...However, there were several basic concepts in which he believed absolutely.
He had an ardent faith in God, belief in the immortality of the soul, future life,
resurrection of the dead, divine reward and punishment, and divine clemency. All of
these ideals are expressed in their wills and tombstones.36
While Emmanuel relies on tombstone inscriptions and wills for many of his assertions of
religious belief, the symbolism further enhances this and even carries with it additional
significance. Emmanuel separates gravestone art into different categories including: "decorations
and allegorical representations, bas-reliefs indicating the profession, quality or rank of the
deceased, scenes recalling the last day of the deceased; biblical tales relevant to the names of the
interred or his wife."37
The most informative of these symbols are the more personal categories: those about the
last day of the deceased's life and also about professions. These stones are fascinating because
they not only capture larger religious themes, but also personal stories. Through these personal
experiences depicted in the gravestones, we are able to interpret cultural values. Emmanuel
describes one such powerful gravestone scene:
Seeking solace for the loss of his wife, the husband would have engraved on her tomb the
last mournful scene which claimed her life...A more touching scene is that found on the
tomb of Rachel [Alvares Correa] (yr. 1705, C 2063), wife of Abraham de Chaves, where
four women, one of whom is beside the bed, and the bearded father in the background are
bewailing this premature death, while a nurse is suckling the child.38
From this image, we can learn that women died in childbirth and that this impacted the person
who commissioned the making of the tombstone so much that they memorialized the scene on
36 Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curagao, 108.
37 Ibid., 124.
38 Ibid., 127.
the grave, passing the personal history onto future viewers of the stone. The multiple occurrence
of death during childbirth scenes on graves in Curagao suggests that motherhood was culturally
valued and that death during childbirth was particularly devastating. Through this, we are able to
better understand the cultural role of women as wives and mothers as a responsibility that was
respected and memorialized. Without this scene on the gravestone, the viewer would need to rely
on the epitaph for information about how the woman died. This raises several problems. First,
one must be able to read and understand the language engraved on the stone. Second, there are
many stones in Curagao with unreadable epitaphs due to environmental pollution, yet often their
images remain visible.39 This is also an issue of interpretation: images on gravestones strike an
intuitive element in the viewer that words on gravestones may not; I believe that gravestone
images can typically cause more of an immediate emotional reaction than epitaphs because of
this intuitive quality. Third, epitaphs do not always mention how the person died. All of these
issues are clarified with the inclusion of beautifully depicted scenes on the gravestone, thus
further emphasizing the use of the gravestone as a communicative tool and making the
interpretation of the graven image prohibition in favor of these detailed scenes appropriate within
the cultural context.
If we compare the gravestone symbolism as described by Goberman and Halporn with
the scene described by Emmanuel, the symbolisms offer different types of information to the
viewer. In order to understand the deeper significance of the symbolism discussed by Goberman
and Halporn-"traditional" Jewish symbolism-one must recognize what the symbols mean;
therefore, the viewer must be familiar with the cultural and religious significance of the symbol
and decorations in order to understand what is being communicated. However, the scene of a
39 Ben-Ur discusses how imagery in the cemetery in Suriname has aided in interpretation when the inscription has
worn away, "Still Life," 58.
woman who died in childbirth depicts an event that any viewer of the gravestone could
recognize. This suggests that the gravestones in Curagao are meant to memorialize in ways that
would be more easily recognizable to a larger audience, whereas the other symbols require
additional information for interpretation. This is not to say that the Curagao cemetery does not
display these traditional elements of gravestone symbolism, but that it also contains a variety of
personalized symbols that are understandable regardless of religion, location, and even time. If
we consider the significant role of gravestone symbolism in this way, the symbolism which is
chosen influences the accessibility of the message that the gravestone communicates to the
Historical Context and Specific Gravestone Symbolism in Curagao
Curagao is a Dutch island in the Caribbean, off the coast of Venezuela. This Caribbean
island is a valuable resource for study because it contains a blend of cultures, languages, and
influences. When I visited Curagao, it was on a family vacation, and I learned about the
synagogue and cemetery while on the "Jewish Heritage Tour" of the island (see figure 15).
Michelle M. Terrell expresses the surprise felt by many people when learning about Judaism in
the Caribbean, "Pushing aside the creeping vine that obscures the Hebrew, Portuguese, English,
or Dutch epitaphs, modem visitors gaze upon the stones and wonder aloud, "What were Jews
doing here?"40 In Curagao, the unusual gravestone symbols enhance this curiosity.
40 Michelle M. Terrell, The Jewish Community of Early Colonial Nevis, A Historical Archaeological Study.
(Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2005), 7-8.
The cemetery in Curagao has become an historic tourist attraction on the island. With
increased tourist visitation to the cemetery, people will see the gravestone images in Curagao and
are likely to compare them with other Jewish cemeteries with which they are familiar. This is
significant because it relates back to the communicative quality of the gravestone symbolism in
Curagao, such as Emmanuel's description of the gravestone carving of a woman who died during
childbirth41 (see figures 10 and 11). The Beth Haim cemetery does exhibit traditional Jewish
gravestone symbols that a visitor expects to see (the Hands of Ble,,ing. Tree of Life, see figures
3 and 8) in addition to carvings of people on gravestones (see figure 4). The scenes in Curagao
that are striking to viewers because they conflict with some interpretations of graven images, and
are also the scenes that are most emotionally effective: death scenes, biblical narratives featuring
characters, and professional images, especially the ship.
These scenes on the tombstones are also the most informative because they are the most
personal. One does not need to know that the woman dying in childbirth may be a biblical
reference to the story of Rachel in order to understand what it is communicating at a basic level
and feel its symbolic significance, but one does need to know that the pitcher of water represents
the Levites in order to understand it-this symbol requires religious knowledge and limits the
audience to whom the image communicates. This is not to belittle the traditional religious
symbols of their beauty and communicative quality, but rather is to note that the combination of
more widely seen Jewish gravestone symbols and those less widely seen within the Beth Haim
cemetery offers a variety of information to the viewer of the gravestones. It is important also to
consider that the more personalized gravestone scenes, such as the grave of a woman who died in
childbirth, are also the more universal. This type of symbol also is very emotionally evocative:
41 Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curacao, photographs between pages 128 and 129.
the people viewing the stone remember that they are not just viewing artistic gravestone
symbols, but that they are viewing a monument to a person and that the symbols were specially
chosen to communicate a message about the person buried there. The idea of monuments is
important within any cemetery. At a very basic level, the function of gravestones is to
memorialize someone, and even gravestones without symbols or any decorative quality still at
least contain names and dates. It is the symbolic elements of gravestones, though, that speak at
an emotional level and also act as material evidence of cultural values and ideas-in graves
without symbols or decorative elements, their lack of presence suggests much about the
individual or community's understanding of the role of gravestones, including whether or not
they could afford a decorated stone or whether they valued simplicity.
Emmanuel presents further insight into the significance of what was considered
controversial gravestone memorials within the Curagao community:
In 1852 Jacod Piendo Jr. died in Baranquilla and three years later the youth Moises de
David Jesurun in New York. Their bodies were brought to Curagao for burial. Later their
respective families erected two costly monuments facing each other. Hakham
Chumaceiro took exception to the two busts adorning the columns, but the interested
families refused to remove them. Chumaceiro thereupon wrote to three rabbis in
Amsterdam for advice. When they, too, condemned such sacrilege, the busts were finally
taken down over the protests of Isaac Pinedo Jr., brother of the first deceased and Vice-
President of the Community, and David Abraham Jesurun, father of the second
This situation shows what different rabbis and families in the community considered "sacrilege";
it is clear that the controversy was not over carvings of people on the gravestones, but rather over
"costly" busts. What is further interesting is that Chumaceiro consulted rabbis in Amsterdam for
advice and they agreed with his concern. The "protests" from the families shows that they did
not consider the monuments "sacrilege" even though they were being removed. This illustrates
42 Ibid., 124.
differing positions on "graven image" among rabbis and community members, but on a larger
scale also illustrates different interpretations of appropriate gravestone monuments between
different communities: Curagao and Amsterdam. Beyond that, it shows that families were willing
to "protest" against the Rabbi's decision regarding the monuments for their family members.
This further emphasizes the important element of emotion in symbolic choices. Clearly the
differing interpretations of the "graven image" restriction shows that, much like today, different
people interpreted religious rules differently, even within the same community. The more that I
have studied the symbolism at Curagao's cemetery and at other Sephardic cemeteries from the
same time period, the more it has become evident that depictions of people, angels, and
professions on gravestones are not as rare as I expected due to the restriction of "graven images."
As discussed earlier, these symbols are prevalent in ancient Jewish art and also can be seen in the
Ouderkerk cemetery in the Netherlands, and other Caribbean Jewish cemeteries also exhibit
certain unusual gravestone symbols.
What does this say about the Jewish community in Curagao? Emmanuel suggests that
there was "liberalism" in Curagao's Jewish community due to the lifestyle of the Caribbean.43
However, Rochelle Weinstein shows that the Ouderkerk cemetery in the Netherlands contains
similar depictions on gravestones. Weinstein also says that many of the Curagao gravestones
were made in the Netherlands.44 This raises the question: is the depiction of people and
professions on gravestones in Curagao influenced by the Caribbean, or Dutch culture? Weinstein
discusses the function of the figures on the gravestones in the Netherlands:
43 Ibid., 108.
44 Weinstein, "Stones of Memory," 85.
Inscribed on the tombstone, the names and images served to remind those who inherited
the names of their forebears and of their religious and social responsibilities. The atypical
Baroque Jewish monuments with figured reliefs are found only in regions governed by
the Dutch or near the free city of Hamburg, whose official religion was Lutheran...In
their exuberance and visual appeal these monuments are unlike any other markers
associated with traditional Jewish or Protestant monumental ritual.45
Since many of the gravestones in Curagao were made in the Netherlands, and Curagao was a
Dutch island, the similarities between the Curagao Beth Haim and the Ouderkerk Beth Haim is
not surprising, but does suggest that the Dutch freedom of religious expression was an influence
on the reinterpretation of "graven image." Weinstein goes on to write:
Recognizing the unique historical situation of the Dutch Jews and of certain Sephardic
families in particular, plus conditions of religious and artistic monumental style in the
Dutch Netherlands, we are better prepared to comprehend the nature of the Sephardic
monuments typified by those of the Senior family and others like them at Ouderkerk and
Curagao. The monuments express not only an attitude toward the Jewish religion but a
sense of being at home, at last, in a specific moment and place, in a long history.46
Weinstein considers the gravestones to be an expression of personal and religious celebration at
finally being able to express themselves religiously in the tolerant Dutch communities in a time
when Jews were suffering persecution all around the world. This relates back to the
communicative quality of the gravestone images and symbols: behind the representations of
people and professions in the Curagao cemetery, which are not commonly recognized forms of
Jewish gravestone symbols, there is a history being communicated to the viewer. If we consider
that gravestones and death monuments act as material tools that communicate cultural
information, the cemetery in Curagao presents images that illustrate values of the religious
community (Hands of Bleinw. Tree of Life) and also personal symbols (Ships, Death scenes).
While epitaphs offer direct personal information such as birth dates and death dates, language
45 Ibid., 91.
46 Ibid., 95.
barriers can restrict their communicative quality; these barriers can be both the requirement of
knowledge of the language, and also the limits of written language at conveying emotion in the
same ways as images. As mentioned earlier, Curagao's cemetery exhibits multiple language
epitaphs, which shows that the community was linguistically diverse. However, images and
symbols can potentially be universally understood based on their required background
information. In order to understand the function of the gravestone symbols, it is important to
consider the cultural environment of the Caribbean.
When studying Jews in the Caribbean, it becomes evident that the islands' history of
colonialism had an influence on, and was influenced by, Jews who had experienced life changes
such as having to convert or flee from Spain and Portugal because of the Inquisition. The
gravestone symbolism, as an expression of cultural understandings, values, and beliefs, was also
obviously affected by this. This makes sense because gravestones reflect cultural changes, as
seen in the study by Dethlefsen and Deetz. Terrell suggests that this influence was global: "These
influences upon the Jewish migration into the Caribbean operated on a global scale, resulting in
the formation of Jewish communities not only in the Caribbean, but also in North Africa, the
Ottoman Empire, North America, and South America."47 Terrell also states that Jewish
communities are known in the Caribbean on Barbados, Jamaica, Nevis, Curagao, St. Eustatius,
and St. Thomas.48 This is relevant to this paper because in order to understand the gravestone
symbolism in Curagao, one must consider many cultural influences on symbolism, not just
47 Terrell, The Jewish Community of Early Colonial Nevis, 12.
Depictions of ships on gravestones in Curagao show that secular professions were
important to the people of Curagao (see figures 13 and 14). Consider the traditional depictions of
religious professions on Jewish tombstones (also seen throughout the cemetery in Curagao): the
symbols of the hands of blessing (see figure 3) and the pitcher. However, the fact that these
religious symbols are in the same cemetery that depicts secular professions on tombstones, such
as ships, suggests that this secular profession was considered important enough to be depicted on
tombstones. Beyond that, the specific example of a ship as a symbol for maritime professions
(merchant, captain, navigator) suggests that these \le, if', professions carried importance. This is
interesting when contrasted with Suriname, where religious occupational symbols seem to carry
significant importance over secular professional symbols.49
When one considers the historical and political context of Jews in Curagao, it is not
surprising that this ship motif is popular. Curagao Jews were continuing religious practices in a
cultural environment that offered religious tolerance during a time in history when this was rare.
Beyond that, the Dutch political environment allowed the Jews of Curagao not just religious
freedom but also professional freedoms, and many Jews in Curagao were very successful. When
ships are on graves in Curagao, a viewer may be surprised by the secular symbol on a religious
artifact, a grave, but the presence of ships on gravestones shows just how important this
profession was to the people of Curagao because it allowed them to move to the "New World"
(Curagao) where religious tolerance was offered. This is especially significant considering that
many of the Jews of Curagao were affected by the Inquisition. Because of their skills as
merchants and ship captains, Dutch Jews were protected from persecution while at sea by the
49 Ben-Ur, "Still Life," 61.
1648 Treaty of Miinster.50 Ships are in no way a random decorative symbol, but rather are
images loaded with cultural and even religious messages: because Curagao needed merchants,
traders, and ship captains and crews-secular professions-the Dutch had to grant religious
freedoms to Jews.51 Thus, the ship takes on a larger symbolic meaning when it is placed on a
gravestone. This ship motif needs to be interpreted within the cultural and religious environment
in which it was used: "In the second half of the 17th century, ships bearing Hebrew and Biblical
names sailed the waters of the Caribbean."52
Emmanuel presented the relationship between cultural influence and religion in his
reasoning behind what he considered "liberalism" in the Curagao community. By studying other
Jewish cemeteries in the Caribbean, such as the cemetery that Terrell presents from Nevis,
perhaps the relationship between the gravestone symbolism in Curagao, such as depictions of
people and professions, can be better understood within the context of the Caribbean and
Judaism. Terrell discusses the gravestone symbols seen in Nevis:
While most of the inscriptions are carved on plain square-cut stones without additional
embellishment, three of the stones exhibit beveled edges, one has an incised outline, and
three others bear carved images. Included in this last group is the gravestone of Daniel
Cohen...His stone exhibits the distinctively Jewish grave image of a carving of two open
hands...The second decorated Nevis gravestone is that of Abraham Cohen Lobatto... His
stone exhibits two common symbols of death: an hourglass and a skull. Hourglasses,
skeletons, skulls, and crossed leg bones, although not typically Jewish grave images, have
been documented in the Sephardic cemeteries of Ouderkerk in the Netherlands and
Spanish Town, Jamaica, among others...The remaining decorated stone in the Nevis
Jewish cemetery is the elaborately carved tomb of Bathsheba Abudiente and her infant
50 Rochelle Weinstein, "Sepulchral Monuments of the Jews of Amsterdam in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth
Centuries." (Ph.D. Diss., New York University, 1979). University Microfilms International, 1990," 117.
51 See Yosef Kaplan's "The Curaqao and Amsterdam Jewish Communities in the 17th and 18th Centuries," American
Jewish History 72:2 (Dec. 1982). Also see Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's discussion of the economic role in Europe of
Jews expelled from the Iberian peninsula in "Between Amsterdam and New Amsterdam: The Place of Curagao and
the Caribbean in Early Modern Jewish History," American Jewish History 72:2 (Dec. 1982). See especially pages
52 Kaplan, "The Curacao and Amsterdam Jewish Communities," 195.
son, both of whom died postpartum in 1684. This lavishly decorated stone is strikingly
carved in relief, unlike the other stones in the cemetery, which have incised
lettering...The uppermost panel is a pair of crossed palm branches encircled by a wreath
and joined together by a bow and ring; the middle panel is the carving of two blossoms
with intertwined stems; the bottom carving is that of a winged hourglass surmounted by a
rose and sitting on a sloping hill with a small plant to either side. This style of carving is
reminiscent of Sephardic gravestones in the Netherlands.53
Terrell's presentation of the gravestone symbols in Nevis are very similar to some of the
gravestone images seen in Curagao (see figures 1 and 3), and she notes the gravestone
similarities with the Sephardic gravestones in the Netherlands.
Curagao's cemetery acts as a historical reference for Judaism in the Caribbean. When
tourists visit the cemetery, the images of people in death scenes and biblical references, as well
as professions seen through ships depicted on the stones, seem striking and unusual, but the
variety of gravestone symbolism exhibited on the island catalogue the historic relationship
between place and religious practice; since many members of the Sephardic community in
Curagao had suffered persecution and fear based on religious intolerance, the Dutch tolerance in
the Netherlands and Curagao possibly created a cultural environment favorable for artistic
religious expression. Rochelle Weinstein thoroughly explores the artistic influence behind some
of the gravestone symbols in Ouderkerk and Curagao in her Ph.D. dissertation and relates the
artistic context of the selected images to the cultural experiences of the people who
commissioned the stones.54 I think, however, beyond art historical contexts, the gravestone
symbols and scenes which were chosen in Curagao can inform viewers of the stones about the
community and ultimately learn more about the experiences of Jews in the Caribbean.
53 Terrell, The Jewish Community of Early Colonial Nevis, 62-63.
54 Rochelle Weinstein, "Sepulchral Monuments of the Jews of Amsterdam in the Seventeenth and
Eighteenth Centuries." Ph.D. Diss., (New York University 1979). University Microfilms International, 1990.
Other Sephardic Cemeteries and Symbolism
The Ouderkerk Jewish Cemetery
The images in Curagao which may strike viewers as unique can be found in the Jewish
cemetery in Ouderkerk, the Netherlands, as well as other Caribbean Jewish cemeteries.55
Emmanuel and others have discussed Christian influence, and experiences of the Inquisition,
resulting in many Sephardic Jews of the time having to live in violent Christian environments in
which they had to adopt Christian lifestyles.56 I interpret these specific and beautifully detailed
depictions in the Curagao cemetery to be tools of communication that reflect the diversity of
Jewish community in Curagao. Ken Worpole compares cemeteries to libraries in their
informative quality, "burial places and cemeteries also function as libraries of past lives, beliefs,
and artefacts, able to be read again and again by succeeding generations. Like libraries,
cemeteries are quiet, catalogued and annotated."57 I agree with Worpole's comparison, but also
extend it in terms of Curagao's Beth Haim cemetery symbolism not just to function as reference
for future generations, but also for the diverse community in the time in which the cemetery was
used. Consider the variety of languages seen in Curagao epitaphs as a representation of the
variety of backgrounds and experiences of the community. Also, people in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries viewed Curagao as the central Jewish community in the Caribbean which
55 David Mayer Gradwohl, "Benditcha Sea Vuestra Memoria: Sephardic Jewish Cemeteries in the Caribbean and
Eastern North America" Markers: The Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies 15, vi., (1998), 1-
56 For more information on these historical inspirations behind Sephardic gravestone images, see Emmanuel's
presentation of the gravestone symbolism in Precious Stones. Also see Weinstein's discussion in "Stones of
Memory," as well as Gradwohl's presentation in "Benditcha." For further discussion of burial customs, see Herbert
C. Dobrinsky's Chapter 5 in A Treasury of Sephardic Laws and Customs (Hoboken: KTAV Publishing House, Inc.),
57 Ken Worpole, Last Landscapes: The Architecture of the Cemetery in the West (London: Reakton Books Ltd.,
2003). See Worpole's pictures from the Ouderkerk cemetery in Figure 17.
other Jewish communities on other islands looked to for inspiration.58 In order to understand the
history behind the gravestone symbols in Curagao, it is important to explore the influential
factors behind the community who built and used the cemetery. One of these factors was the
Dutch Jewish community and the Ouderkerk cemetery, which exhibits remarkably similar
gravestone symbolism to the Curagao cemetery. Both cemeteries are called Beth Haim (House of
The land for the Ouderkerk Jewish cemetery was purchased in 1614 by the Portuguese
Jewish community in Amsterdam.59 It is worth noting here the remarkable historical significance
of the Inquisition, not only as a historical event of violence, cruelty, religious persecution and
injustice, but also as a factor that shaped the experiences and history of many communities
around the world. The gravestone symbolism seen in these Sephardic cemeteries is just one
remnant of this tragic historic event, but also shows through the symbols elements of the Jewish
relocation around the world and cultural interactions that they experienced. Gradwohl notes that
the ruling of prohibition against Jews in Spain was not formally changed until 1969, and in
Portugal has never been officially changed.60 This places further historical significance on the
Dutch religious tolerance in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries:
At a time when most of the Jews in continental Europe were ghettoized, or repressed in
myriad other ways, these Jews engaged in an almost untrammeled range of economic
58 See Harry A. Ezratty's 500 Years in the Jewish Caribbean: The Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the West Indies,
(Baltimore: Omni Arts, 1997), 21.
59 L.A. Vega, Het Beth Haim van Ouderkerk (The Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel) (Assen: Van Gorcum,
60 See Gradwohl, ]lic iklll.,," 1.
activity, bore arms in militias, owned land and ran plantations, and were represented in
This Dutch religious tolerance was a series of historical change that, by the sixteenth
century, allowed for elements of religious freedoms for Jews in the Netherlands. As discussed
earlier in this paper, Weinstein presents that the gravestone symbolism in Curacao and
Ouderkerk can be interpreted within this perspective as depictions of celebration of religious
freedom, and is especially true in Biblical scenes associated with people's names on gravestones.
This is relevant considering that many Sephardic Jews of this time, or their family members, had
to take on other Christian names and lifestyles. Harry Ezratty notes that on gravestones in Jewish
cemeteries in the Caribbean sometimes both names are engraved, as seen on the grave of Joseph
Jessurun Mendes/ Lewis Dias in Barbados.62
The Ouderkerk cemetery contains depictions of skulls and crossbones, hourglasses,
angels, biblical scenes, and depictions of people and professions (see figure 16). Other more
widely depicted and more recognizable as Jewish gravestone symbols include trees being cut
down by a hand to signify a life cut short, hands of blessing, and religious symbols such as those
presented in Section One from Halpom and Goberman. The gravestones in Curacao were made
in the Netherlands and shipped to the island. The similarities in artistry between Ouderkerk and
Curacao are clear, especially when the images are of people and biblical scenes. The similarity
between Ishak H. Senior's grave in Curacao and Moses De Mordechai Senior in Ouderkerk is
noticeable (see figures 4 and 22).63
61 Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, "Between Amsterdam and New Amsterdam: The Place of Curagao and the Caribbean
in Early Modern Jewish History," 172-192.
62 Harry A. Ezratty, 500 Years in the Jewish Caribbean, 7-8.
63 See Weinstein "Stones of Memory" for further analysis behind these gravestones and the Senior family.
L.A. Vega provides detailed photographs of the Ouderkerk gravestones (See figures 17-
22). Most striking of these are the graves of Samuel Senior Teixeira and his wife Rachel Teixeira
de Mattos (figures 17-20).64 Samuel's grave shows the scene from 1 Samuel 3, and Vega notes
how this is "a portrayal one might have thought unimaginable on a Jewish cemetery."65 This is
the biblical story of God calling to Samuel while he sleeps, but Samuel thinks Eli is calling him.
When Samuel says, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening," God comes down and talks to
Samuel.66 What is significant here is that "The Lord came, and stood there, and He called as
before."67 God does not just talk to Samuel, he stands before Samuel. This detail is relevant in
the interpretation of the depiction on Samuel Senior Teixeira's gravestone because it depicts this
scene-it depicts God standing before Samuel! In my research on gravestones in Curacao, I have
not found any direct depictions of God, but this example from the Ouderkerk cemetery shows
that there certainly was not a concern about graven images.
Rochelle Weinstein interprets the gravestone images in Ouderkerk within the context of
illustrated Jewish Bibles. Weinstein discusses Teixeira: "A relief supposedly portraying Samuel
visited in his sleep by God or an angel, commissioned for Samuel Senior Teixeira, repeatedly
demonstrates its real origin in scenes depicting the Creation."68 While I appreciate Weinstein's
analysis of the gravestones in the art historical context and I recognize the significance as
culturally influenced material culture, I also think that the informative quality of the stone is not
64 L.A. Vega, The Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, 50.
66 1 Samuel 3:9-11. JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2000), 577.
68 Ibid., 25.
only in its reference to other works of art but to the fact that these Jewish communities used them
to tell their stories. I think Weinstein provides an excellent cultural background for
understanding the atmosphere of the Jews of Ouderkerk. However, I think it is important to view
the stone for what it is and how Teixeira (and others) used them. By viewing these gravestone
images contextually through art that inspired them, Weinstein adds to their historical content, but
I also think that this reduces their symbolic significance because it focuses not on the use of the
image on the gravestone but rather on its inspiration. Clearly the background of the stone's art is
significant for understanding the environment in which it was made, but I think that focusing too
much on what it is inspired by takes away from the importance of how it was used.
Teixeira died in 1716 and his wife died in 1717. Her gravestone depicts the biblical
character Rachel, wife of Jacob, dying in childbirth (see figures 19 and 20).69 Depictions of
women dying in childbirth are more universally recognizable, and while specific in their content,
signify that the women who are buried under these striking gravestones were wives and mothers.
This gravestone imagery of women dying in childbirth communicates its message successfully in
that it is not restricted by language, religious interpretation, or time. Yes, Rachel Teixeira's stone
is a biblical reference, but the scene is universal. Viewers of this tombstone can therefore relate
to it, regardless of their background or even when they view the stone. If cemeteries are
interpreted as libraries such as Worpole suggests, images of women dying in childbirth offer a
wealth of knowledge on the life of the women buried there. The use of this image on tombstones
communicates sadness, a powerful emotion that the viewer recognizes centuries after the stone
was made: "The scene has therefore been conceded to be a timeless, idealized representation of
the centrality of the woman as life-giver and life-supporter of the lamenting family so
69 Vega, The Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, 50.
disrupted."70 Most important, though, is that these images remind viewers that these stones are
not just beautiful art, but that they are memorials for people's lives. This makes the stones not
only incredible resources for historical study, but also shows how visual references to people's
lives on gravestones, while possibly in contrast with some interpretations of the law against
graven images, provide a timeless reaction.
The Ouderkerk cemetery also contains a variety of professional images. Vega's
photographs show depictions of musicians, with images of King David playing the harp on the
grave of David da Rocha (See figure 21). It is not just a reference to his name, but also his
musical ability.71 The gravestone of Esther de la Penha-Gabay Henriques (1697) depicts her
house and references Psalm 128:3, which Vega shows connects a wife to her home, and thus can
be interpreted as a professional image for women at that time.72
Vega's photographs show that not all of the gravestones in Ouderkerk are so detailed,
much like the Curagao cemetery. Some gravestones just contain writing and a few decorative
elements, such as flowers or patterns. Vega notes that depictions of people and angels "cease to
occur after the end of the eighteenth century."73 This suggests that factors in the community
changed or that perhaps people began to be more traditional in their interpretation of graven
images. Chaim Potok offers an interesting analysis of the challenge of interpreting images in
70 Rochelle Weinstein, "Women of Valor in Commemorative Imagery" Proceedings of the Eighth World Congress
of the Jewish Studies, Division D (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1982).
71 Vega, The Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, 48.
72 Ibid., 42.
73 Ibid., 22.
That commandment (Exodus 20: 4-5) tells us: "You shall not make for yourself a
sculpted image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth
below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve
them." Is the image forbidden in homes, schools, and synagogues but permitted in
cemeteries? Did our forefathers avoid images in life only to accept them in
Potok also notes that "Virtually none of these cemeteries in these pages exists in a viable
contemporary Jewish community."75 The Sephardic communities are still present in the
Netherlands and Curagao, but Potok and Vega are making similar observations-that the images
of people and angels ("graven images") are not usually found in these Jewish cemeteries after the
eighteenth century. This means that after this there was something changing within the attitudes
of Jewish communities regarding symbolism and representations on gravestones.
Potok discusses Moses de Mordechai's gravestone in Ouderkerk (See figure 22): "Ponder
this: a sculpted image of Moses carrying the commandments in which the sculpted image is
forbidden!"76 I think the change in gravestone symbolism is probably connected with changing
attitudes about graven images, but also may reflect generational cultural changes among the
people who commissioned the detailed gravestones with people, angels, professions, and the
people who commissioned gravestones without them. If we build on Weinstein's presentation of
the Ouderkerk and Curagao Beth Haim cemeteries in "Stones of Memory," then the depictions of
people, angels, and professions can be understood as a response to finally having religious
freedom of expression. Perhaps this passion was not as striking to later generations who
commissioned gravestones without these symbols, which would again reinforce the function of
gravestones as communicative tools of cultural values.
74 Chaim Potok, ,I Iic', .I in Arnold Schwartzman's Graven Images: Graphic Motifs of the Jewish Gravestone,
(New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993), 8.
75 Ibid., 9.
76 Ibid., 10.
Other Sephardic Jewish Cemeteries
Aviva Ben-Ur presents a detailed study of the symbolism in the Jewish cemeteries in
Suriname. Suriname is located north of Brazil and is a former Dutch colony with Dutch as the
official language.7 The Dutch religious tolerance of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
influenced the Jewish community, much like Ouderkerk and Curagao, and similar gravestone
symbols and styles are employed in the Sephardic cemeteries of Suriname dating from 1666-
1873.7 It is also notable that these gravestones were imported from the Netherlands, as seen in
Curagao, and Ben-Ur writes, "Whether executed by a Jewish or Gentile sculptor, the consumer
was Jewish. Not only did the client presumably have a say in choosing or styling the design, but
he or she also imbibed that design with Jewish cultural meaning."79 I find this significant because
some may suggest that the only reason the gravestones have these "graven images" is because
they may have been sculpted by Christians, not Jews, but Ben-Ur does not think this matters-
what matters is that Jews used them. I completely agree with Ben-Ur's assessment and in fact
think that the use of these controversial images in a Jewish cemetery is what is striking about the
stones, not who made them.
The Suriname Sephardic cemeteries, like those in Ouderkerk and Curagao, have flat
gravestones. Ben-Ur notes that the symbolism in Suriname's Sephardic cemeteries reflects
Messianic hopes and worldviews, and also that only the wealthy could afford to buy elaborate
gravestones shipped from Amsterdam. This is important because it provides perspective behind
77 Ben-Ur, "Still Life: Sephardi, Ashkenazi, and West African Art and Form in Suriname's Jewish Cemeteries," 34.
79 Ibid., 48.
the cultural implications of the symbolism behind these stones. They are not indicators of all
Sephardic gravestones, but only those who could afford them.80
According to Ben-Ur's presentation, the Suriname Sephardic cemeteries exhibit images
discussed throughout this paper such as: the tree of life, Lulav and Etrog, priestly hands,
professional references, trees being cut down by a hand from the clouds, skulls and crossbones,
hourglasses, and childbirth deathbed scenes. Ben-Ur interprets the presence of trumpets on
gravestones as symbols of hope for the resurrection of the dead.81 Much like Vega and Potok
note about the Ouderkerk cemetery, Ben-Ur says that the "ornamental slabs in the four oldest
cemeteries ceased to be fashionable after the 1850s."82 Ben-Ur is also interested in the scenes of
death in childbirth:
Unlike the almost animated pictographs representing life pursuit through occupational
tools, or tribal affiliation through manual symbols and ewers of water emptied into
basins, the startling images of paturients convey the intensity and paradox of bringing
forth life while descending into death.83
It is not that surprising that the gravestone images in Curagao, Ouderkerk, and Suriname
are similar because the communities were Sephardic, living in Dutch colonies, and the
gravestones are from the same time and were made in the Netherlands. However, Ben-Ur notes
that while the cemeteries in Suriname do display "faint reflections" of Teixeira's gravestone in
Ouderkerk, they do so by symbolizing heavenly hands and body parts, not God.84 In my research
on Curagao's gravestone symbolism, I find the same thing-that there are elements of depictions
80 Ibid., 49.
81 Ibid., 60.
82 Ibid., 49-50.
83 Ibid., 63.
84 Ibid., 70.
of heavenly beings with heavenly hands and angels, but not direct depiction of God as seen in
Ouderkerk. Teixeira's gravestone image is rare and surprising, but its location in Ouderkerk
rather than one of the Caribbean locations may suggest an even greater sense of religious
freedom felt by the Ouderkerk Jewish community rather than the Jewish communities in Curagao
or Suriname. This may be due to geographical location and politics. The Netherlands offered
security because it was a religiously tolerant place and had the central government, whereas
Suriname and Curagao were just colonies, and Curagao and Suriname were close to other
countries that were practicing the Inquisition, such as Colombia, and may have felt less secure
than the community in the Netherlands.
Other Sephardic Jewish cemeteries are found in the Caribbean, including Nevis, Jamaica,
the Virgin Islands, and Barbados. From my research, it is clear that these cemeteries exhibit
similar symbols including: floral patterns, the hands of blessing, the pitcher of water, trees being
cut down by an angel, and the skull and crossbones.85 However, depictions of people and angels
in the same detail as seen in Curagao, Ouderkerk, and Suriname are difficult to find. This reflects
a number of issues. Firstly, the most obvious explanation is that the Curagao, Ouderkerk, and
Suriname gravestones-since all (or most) imported from the Netherlands-may have either
been made by the same sculptors or influenced by a similar sculpting technique. I think it is
notable that the Dutch influenced cemeteries are the most symbolically specific and detailed.
This reflects a relationship between religion and surrounding political culture. Even though there
may have been other factors behind the gravestone symbolism in the Dutch influenced
cemeteries, there could also be the understanding of place (Ouderkerk and Dutch colonies) and
8See Roberta Halporn, also see Michelle Terrell. Also see Isaac S. Emmanuel., and Suzanne A. Emmanuel. History of
the Jews in the Netherlands Antilles ( Assen: Royal Vangorcum Ltd., 1970)., and see also Zvi Loker, Jews in the
Caribbean (Jerusalem: Misgav Yerushalaim, 1991).
the cultural and religious practice of displaying these graphic gravestones as material evidence of
In the Colonial Jewish cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island, there are gravestone symbols,
but they are not anywhere near as detailed and striking as the symbols in the cemeteries
mentioned above.86 There are depictions of Death's Heads, but they are not very clear or
detailed, and are clearly not as precise as the images seen in Curagao and Ouderkerk.87 It is
important to note that the Jewish community in Rhode Island was also given some religious
freedom under British Parliamentary law, and the cemetery land was purchased in 1677, and yet
the cemetery does not exhibit the same types of symbolism as Curagao, Ouderkerk, or
Suriname.88 This may simply be due to differences between the communities, but also may be
influenced by place and the cultural factors of the surrounding communities. For example,
Gradwohl presents the presence of Death's Heads in the Newport cemetery as reflections of the
Puritan influence, as discussed by Dethlefsen and Deetz. The Caribbean locations of Curagao
and Suriname were influenced by Dutch culture and even had gravestones shipped from the
Netherlands. While the Newport cemetery and the Curagao cemetery exhibit similarities as well
as differences, the communities were in communication and some of the funding for the Touro
Synagogue in Rhode Island came from Jewish communities in the Caribbean, including Curagao
and Suriname.89 Clearly religious communities do not exist in a bubble but rather interact with
the surrounding cultures and historical circumstances, but the gravestone symbolism differences
86 David Mayer Gradwhol, Like Tablets of the Law Thrown Down: The Colonial Jewish Burying Ground in
Newport, Rhode Island. (Ames: The Touro National Heritage Trust, Sigler Printing, 2007).
87 Ibid., see pages 35-40 for images.
88 Ibid., 1-3, 20.
89 Ibid., 3.
between Curagao and the Newport cemetery are informative when one considers the influence of
place on religious expression.
What does the gravestone symbolism in Curagao tell us about the community who
commissioned and used them? Specifically, what do the representations of people in death
scenes, depictions of angels and heavenly figures, and also professions, tell us about the
historical environment, and the cultural and religious practices of the Jews of Curagao? From
scenes of women dying in childbirth we can conclude that: 1. Women died in childbirth, 2. This
was regarded as not only as an untimely death, but also one that needed to be memorialized on
the gravestones, 3. The images perpetually act as representations of cultural values of respect for
maternity and reproduction, and in these ways validate a woman's role in the community and
mourn her loss. Based on the material evidence of the gravestones, women were appreciated as
wives and mothers, and their death during childbirth was mourned by their families but also by
the community because the means of death were recognized on the tombstones, which act as
individual and communal communicative tools.
The presence of similar gravestones in Ouderkerk and Suriname reinforce the Dutch
religious tolerance as an influence on the unique gravestone symbolism, especially since the
gravestones were made in the Netherlands and shipped to Curagao and Suriname. The presence
of these graphic gravestones in Ouderkerk, Curagao, and Suriname may reinforce the values of
Dutch religious tolerance, freedom of religious expression and possibly influenced the
communities' understandings of religious interpretation of graven images, and the Sephardic
Jewish communities' experiences with Christianity as Marranos or Conversos.90
90 See Kaplan's discussion of Curagao Jews' relationship with Christianity, 199-200.
It is important that the material evidence is viewed within the context of how it is used-
gravestones. The symbols were not randomly chosen or simply chosen because the person or
their family liked the way they looked, although that may have been part of the reason. They
were chosen because they captured not only the individual experience, but communal
experiences and values. The gravestone symbolism acts as material evidence for the relationship
between place and context and religious practice: whether or not the sculptors were Christian, or
the symbols were used even though they can be seen as graven images, the Jewish communities
in Ouderkerk, Curagao and Suriname used them and they illustrate their historical experiences.
The gravestone symbols are not unusual if we consider them in context including religious
tolerance, religious challenges, and changes in location that all influenced the cultural and
religious practices of Sephardic Jews of this time, and when interpreted this way the gravestone
symbolism that seems so unusual makes perfect sense. They are material evidence for the
experiences of the Sephardic Jews of Curagao and continue to tell their stories.
When one goes to Curagao and views these striking gravestone symbols and feels
shocked while remembering the Jewish prohibition against graven images, they may ask, like
Terrell did in Nevis, "What were Jews doing here?". While the gravestone symbols are what
raise the question, they also contain the answers. When one digs deeper behind the symbolism,
these gravestones reflect historical experiences, and these experiences were very real and present
to the people who used these gravestones. Weinstein notes: "As late as the eighteenth century,
New Christians were burned at the stake in Spain; others had been banished to Brazil for the
heresy of judaizing; still others took refuge from the Inquisition in New World colonies."91 The
91 Ibid., 122.
fear and experiences of the Jews of Curagao were thus very affected by these historical events
which started centuries before.
Studying the Curagao cemetery is important for a number of reasons, but specifically
relevant is that the images seen on the tombstones of people and professions clearly express the
cultural situation of the community who used them. The cemetery is a historical reference of the
experiences of Jews in Curagao. Elements of these experiences can be seen in the detailed
symbols of professions, biblical scenes, and deathbed scenes in Curagao.
The Jewish community in Curagao built a stunning synagogue, brought commerce to the
island, and prospered both religiously and secularly. The images on the gravestones are striking
and grab the viewers' attentions because they seem to ignore the graven image prohibition, but in
doing so they are able to evocatively illustrate historical, cultural, and religious values and
experiences of the Curagao Jewish community. Symbols are powerful tools of communication. A
ship is not just a ship but rather shows a person's professional experience, which in Curagao was
a means to religious tolerance. A deathbed scene of a woman in childbirth is not just a biblical
reference or a reference to how a woman died, but rather strikes the viewer and reminds them
that these stones were commissioned by people mourning their loved ones.
Symbols by their very nature mean one thing on the surface and then take on additional
meaning the more they are explored and evaluated. A tree being cut down by a heavenly hand is
a metaphor for a life cut too short. Angels playing instruments and sitting on gravestones act as
decoration but also as a connection between the realm of humans and also the realm of the
divine. While the images on the graves in Curagao are what struck my interest in the Beth Haim
cemetery, my research has shown me that there is so much more behind these images than a
reinterpretation of the graven image prohibition. If the Jews of Curagao, Ouderkerk, and
Suriname had not depicted people, professions, and heavenly beings such as angels and heavenly
hands and in Ouderkerk even God, the gravestones would not be as striking and would not as
thoroughly communicate the historical experiences and values of these communities.
Figure 1 The Skull and Crosshones (Death's Head) on a gravestone in Curacao. Photo taken hv author.
Figure 2: A depiction of an angel on the grave of a child in Curacao. Note the word "Anjo" on the first line
of the epitaph. Photo taken by author.
Figure 3: A detail of Hands of Blessing on a gravestone in Curacao. Photo taken by author.
Figure 4: A depiction of a person on a gravestone in Curagao. Also shows preservation effort to save gravestone arts
from pollution and environmental damage. Photo taken by author.
Figure 5: Angels and the tree of life on a gravestone in Curacao. Notice the pitcher spilling water, as well as the tree
of life behind them Photo taken by author.
Figure 6: A different example of angels on a gravestone in Curagao. Notice how the angel seems to mourn the
death, and sits near a tree. Photo taken by author.
Figure 7: An example of a star and flowers on a gravestone in Curacao. Photo taken by author.
Figure 8: An example of a tree being cut down on a gravestone in Curacao. Photo taken by author.
Figure 9: A view of the Beth Haim cemetery in Curacao and the Shell Oil Refinery. Photo taken by author.
Figure 10: A death scene from a gravestone in Curacao. Photo from Isaac S. Emmanuel's Precious Stones
of the Jews of Curacao, between pages 128 and 129.
Figure 11: A death scene from a gravestone in CuraCao. Photo from Isaac S. Emmanuel's Precious Stones
of the Jews of Curacao, between pages 456 and 457.
Pruo tr 11. s. hivn. Crarto
r- U. r.r- ..t
Cr rr II~j
i . i'l'7 6u
' ~e ~~
Figure 12: The gravestone of Ishac H.Senior. from Emmanuel's Precious Stones, between pages 304 and
305. See also figure 4 in this paper for a more recent picture of the same gravestone.
L 11 -r ' tvw^ c`lfrj
Figure 13: A depiction of a ship on a gravestone in Curacao, symbolizing a profession. Gravestone of
Captain Abraham D. Moreno Henriques. from Emmanuel Precious Stones, between pages 352 and 353.
Figure 14: Another depiction of a ship on the gravestone of Captain Mosseh Henriquez Cotino. From
Emmanuel. Precious Stones, between pages 352 and 353.
Figure 15: A "Jewish Heritage Tour" in the cemetery in Curacao. December 2007. Photo taken by author.
Figure 16: Images from the Beth Haim Cemetery in Ouderkerk. Photo from Last Landscapes: The
Architecture of the Cemetery in the West, by Ken Worpole.
r different motifs from headstones at Beth Haim: the hourglass, the skull and crossbones, the chopped-down tree and
splayed hands through which the radiance of the divine flows.
. 1 '1 --.--. D-6- A-rtA]
Figure 17: Samuel Teixeira's gravestone in Ouderkerk. Notice the depiction of God. Photo from: The Beth
Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel by L.A. Vega. page 50.
Figure 18: A closer look at Teixeira's gravestone, figure 18. Notice the rays of light around God. and that
he is on a cloud. Also notice Samuel's surprise. Magnified detail from a photo from Vega.
I- E '- a S B t'.. 7 * - .--- ... . . .
y~~~s l^^ g z^*
Figure 19: Photo of the gravestone of Rachel Teixeira de Mattos in Ouderkerk. Photo from The Beth Haim
of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel by L.A. Vega. page 50.
Figure 20: A closer look at figure 19 Childbirth Death image. Notice the detailed anguish on the faces of
the audience. Magnified detail from a photo from Vega.
Figure 21: The gravestone of David da Rocha in Ouderkerk. Photo from The Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan
de Amstel by L.A. Vega. page 48.
Figure 22: The gravestone of Moses de Mordechai Senior in Ouderkerk. Photo from The Beth Haim of
Ouderkerk aan de Amstel by L.A. Vega, page 54. Consider this picture with figure 13. the gravestone of Ishak
Senior in Curacao, and also figure 4 which shows preservation effort of Ishak Senior's gravestone.
Figure 23: A map of the Jewish Caribbean. From "La Nacion" The Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the
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