Symbols in the Old Jewish Cemetery of Prague
Dating from the late 16th century, tombstones in Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery bear a variety of symbols.
Some of these, such as the hands of the Kohanes or the pitcher of the Levites, continue today. You’ll often see them in American Jewish cemeteries.
But there are others you would be likely to only see in Prague.
Some symbols reflect either the first name or surname of the deceased, such as a flower for Raizel,
a wolf for Zev or Wolf,
a lion for Yehuda or Aryeh or Leib,
a deer for Naftali, Zvi or Hirsch,
a bear for Dov or Baer,
a fish for Ephraim, Karp, or Fishel,
a mouse for Maisel,
or a rooster for Hahn.
One popular symbol is that of a bunch of grapes, signifying a long and fruitful life.
Because the cemetery had a roped path for tourists, I did not have access to all the symbols I’ve seen documented. These include:
- Pigeons, doves, and other birds
- Griffins and fabled winged animals
- Venetian lions
- Occupation symbols such as scissors, mortar, book, harp, and violin
Symbols were also often combined for first and last name. For example, the grave of David Gans combines the Star of David with a goose.