What can Jewish cemeteries teach us about the Jewish communities of the past and their history?
By looking at tombstones and the size of Jewish cemeteries, we can gather evidence indicative of the demography of the Jewish communities that once lived in the surrounding area. If the cemetery is well preserved, one can notice traces of the demographic growth of the Jewish population, epidemics, pogroms, etc. by considering the amount of graves at a specific year as well as the indication of the cause of death on the epitaph.
For example, at the Vadul Rashkov Jewish Cemetery in Șoldanești, Moldova, which the ESJF surveyed in 2020 under our previous European Commission pilot project, we discovered over 2500 headstones. We noted at this burial site that in the 1890s and 1900s the number of tombstones increased drastically – this is evidence of a demographic explosion among the Jewish population at that time!