Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Herman Rich

I live close to the historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, and enjoy strolling around the grounds.  My favorite sections are the two Jewish sections, where many of the monuments are bilingual, inscribed in English on one side and Hebrew on the other.  In an earlier post, I described how it is important to read both inscriptions because the information provided may be different.  Hebrew inscriptions commonly give the name of the father, whereas this information is typically left out in the accompanying English.

In the case of Herman Rich, the English inscription is very informative.  It gives the names of two children and a specific birthplace and place of death.


In fact, the English inscription is in many ways more informative than the Hebrew inscription.


There are a number of online sources that can help you translate Hebrew inscriptions. One of the most useful resources is on the JewishGen site.  They have a guide to reading Hebrew inscriptions which includes a vocabulary list and an explanation of the Jewish calendar (here).  They also have a very useful PDF on the site that provides an indispensable list of abbreviations (here) and a tool for translating letters to dates (here).  The translation of this inscription is as follows:

The great Rabbi Mr. Tzvi Rich
He was born in Kasschau in the country of Hungary [now: Košice, Slovakia]
in the year 5601 [1840/1841], and he died in the city
of Birmingham on the Holy Sabbath, 10th of Tevet
5668 [15 Dec 1907] May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life!

I have translated the verbs נפטר and נולד as "he died" and "he was born".  In Hebrew, the pronoun is included in the meaning of a verb, so a single verb can be a complete sentence.  You will often see these verbs translated simply as "born" and "died" following the common phrasing in English discussed here last week, but here I have chosen a more literal translation. In Hebrew inscriptions brevity is not achieved by writing in a shortened style like English, but rather by the generous use of abbreviations.  For example, "on the Holy Sabbath", which in Hebrew is בשׁבת קןדשׁ, is abbreviated as בשׁ''ק. Also, the scriptural passage at the end of the inscription is represented by five letters.

As an aside, coincidentally, Mr. Rich was from the same part of what is now Slovakia as the Kowatch family described in my last Surname Saturday post (here).  

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