Did you know that tombstone dating can provide evidence for the period that a Jewish community existed?
Traditional Jewish headstones indicate the date of death using the Hebrew alphabet. The period of time that the cemetery was used by the Jewish community can also be established from these dates. The oldest tombstone is sometimes the earliest physical documented evidence of the existence of a Jewish community. This is particularly the case for small, forgotten cemeteries whose Jewish community was completely wiped out during the Holocaust.
While many Jewish cemeteries have documented evidence of the existence of Jewish communities, there are a few cases where Jewish cemeteries are the only preserved or known evidence. It is therefore important to protect these traces of the past to ensure that these Jewish communities are not forgotten!
For example, there is a scarce amount of information about the Jewish community in Chomonyn, Zakarpattia, Ukraine. As far as we know for now, the Jewish cemetery seems to be the only preserved material evidence that the local Jewish community existed. During our expedition to the site in 2019 under European Commission funding, we found 19 tombstones, dating from 1897 – 1944.
Moreover, we discovered that the Jewish cemetery is marked on the cadastral map of 1865. The cemetery is overgrown. The clearing of the cemetery could therefore reveal more tombstones dating even earlier. Nevertheless based on our current findings we know that the Jewish community existed in Chomonyn at least from 1865 until the Second World War. We believe that the descendants of local Jews could tell us more about the local community history.