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What is Matzeva?

Jewish law requires that a tombstone be prepared, so that the deceased will not be forgotten and the grave will not be desecrated. It is customary in some communities to keep the tombstone veiled, or to delay in putting it up, until the end of the 12-month mourning period. The idea underlying this custom is that the dead will not be forgotten when he or she is being mourned every day. In communities where this custom is observed, there is generally a formal unveiling ceremony when the tombstone is revealed.

What is written on a tombstone? In most cases, it is very straightforward Hebrew text, similar to what you might see on a tombstone in English.
At the top is the abbreviation Pei-Nun, which stands for either "poh nitman" or "poh nikbar", which means "here lies..." The marks that look like quotation marks are commonly used to indicate an abbreviation or a number written in letters.

The next line is the name of the decedent, in the form (decedent's name), son of or daughter of [father's name]. "Son of" is either ben or bar. "Daughter of" is bat .Sometimes, one or both of the names is preceded by the letter Reish, which simply stands for "Reb" and means "Mr." The names may also be followed by the title ha-Kohein), ha-Levi or ha-Rav, indicating that the person was a Kohen, Levite or Rabbi.

The third line indicates the date of death. This line begins with the abbreviation Nun-Pei followed by the date, the month, and the year. The date and year are written in Hebrew numerals, which are letters.

The last line is an abbreviation that stands for "tehe nishmatah tzerurah bitzror hachayim," which means "may her soul be bound in the bond of eternal life."
You may also find Jewish symbols on a tombstone, such as a Menora, Torah Scroll, Star of David, a lion, or the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. Most of these symbols don't tell you anything about the decedent (other than the fact that he or she was Jewish). However, if you see a picture of hands in an interjoined position, this normally indicates that the decedent was a Kohen, because this hand position is used when the Kohanim (Priests) bless the congregation at certain times of the year.

Why is Matzeva so important?

“Rachel died and was buried on the road to Efrat, in Bethlehem. On her grave Jacob erected a monument, which, to this very day, is known as Rachel's monument”
(Genesis xxxv: 19-20)

Matzeva’s are a lasting symbol of someones life, long after they have left us, and also mark the persons final resting place, where his family and descendants can come, pay their respects and mourn for generations, when a matzeva is removed it is as if that person has been lost, by returning these Matzevas back to the cemeteries were are once again returning the memory of these people and enabling loved ones to find them and again mourn them in accordance with Jewish tradition.

What to do with Matzeva in my house?

There is a pheonenom where Matzevas were taken from Jewish Graveyards after being desecrated and broken by the nazi’s and used for building in individuals homes, these Matzevas can be often found turned over and used in steps, or as building blocks in barns (as we can see in the galery), and even used as grinding Stones for sharpening knives.

f you were to find a Matzeva in your house you can reach out to us (Contact link here) and we will be happy to come and carefully remove the Matzeva from your property, this service is enitrely free, we ask nothing of you.

What to do with Matzeva in my town?

In over 1200 towns in Poland there were Jewish cemeteries, with most of these destroyed, the matzevas dissapeared, and can now be found in buildings, streets, all over.

If you know of a Matzeva in your town, you are welcome to reach out to us and we will be in touch with your local authorities, to remove the Matzeva and return it carefully with the full respect it deserves to its rightful place.

Matzeva Project
tel. +48 501 183 871
e-mail. info@matzeva.org

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