October 28, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)
Grave sites should always hold, even if the deceased are long gone and wholly unknown to us, some quiet reverence for those buried. There must be, in any person worthy of that designation, a recognition of the shared humanity the memento mori hopes to evoke, “As we are, so shall ye be”. Today I fear today this virtue has been badly corroded by those who profit from division, rancor, and fear.
After the tragic events in Pittsburgh yesterday, I thought it fitting to look to Newport, Rhode Island’s Colonial Jewish Cemetery (est. 1677) and feature one of the memorials there as a reminder of our shared history.
Rebecca the Wife of
died March 2d 1764,
Aged 65 Years
6 Mo & 18 Days
According to the a 1920 article about the Jewish community in Newport, the Hebrew inscription reads:
(I went with the image of a rubbing for clarity; photos of the stone left much to be desired, possibly because the small plot is usually closed to visitors. The stone itself was carved by William Stevens.)
Newport, Rhode Island is home to New England’s oldest synagogue, which is perhaps best known for George Washington’s letter of 1790 to its members, promising that the newly formed United States would guarantee religious liberty for all citizens, saying in part:
All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship… For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens… May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
My fervent wish is that we do more to honor those words in the future.