The tombstones in the cemetery are an expression of the conservative tastes of the members of the Bratislava Jewish community. They are relatively humble in form, size and artistic expression, despite the social prominence of many of the people buried here. Each section maintains a strict grid organization of graves; no section has been selected for allocation of larger burial lots for prominent people. If compared with large urban cemeteries of this period (e.g. in Vienna, Budapest, Prague), we do not find any elaborate family mausoleums or luxurious funerary monuments.

Rabínske hroby

The basic type of tombstone is a vertical stele (matzeva) with text. A simple matzeva has a horizontal or semi-circular ending. More complicated versions are architectonically structured, and richly decorated by floral or geometric elements. Luxurious tombstones combine the use of easy-to-process dolomite and marble plaques with texts.

Another type of tombstone combines a vertical stele with a horizontal stone slab. This type of funerary monument was used to mark the graves of important rabbis. The monuments of Ketav Sofer and Shevet Sofer have two vertical stelae, on both sides of the slab.


The third type of tombstone represents the typical obelisks that appeared from the end of the 19th century into the interwar period. Dark granite is the most common material. We also find several monuments with the motif of a broken column on a base. These were used for children’s graves. Modern tombstones commonly use horizontal slabs and a vertical epitaph stone. Some have modern, non-typical forms.

Tombstones were produced from various materials. The oldest ones were made of dolomite and sandstone, later granite. More luxurious tombstones combine dolomite with marble. Later tombstones were produced from granite and black granite. Post-war graves often combine artificial stone and natural stone. We also find an onyx monument from recent times.

Ruky Kohenov

The tombstones feature typical symbols that are generally used in Jewish cemeteries. Blessing hands mark the tombstones of the Kohanim, descendants of Temple priests that in traditional Judaism maintain a special position in the community. Their duties are tied to the destroyed Jerusalem Temple; during the synagogue service they bless the community by means of a special priestly benediction (birkat kohanim) and receive the first aliyah (call to read) to the Torah. They are involved in the redemption of the firstborn son (pidyon haben) ceremony. If the Jerusalem Temple were to be reestablished, they would lead ritual sacrifices and therefore need to preserve their purity. There is a prohibition on contact with the bodies of the deceased and visits to cemeteries. Kohanim sections of the cemetery, where they are buried, are easily accessible so that the movements of their relatives in the cemetery is minimized.


The graves of the Levites are marked by a jug. The Levites are descendants of the priestly tribe of Levi who assisted the kohanim in the Jerusalem Temple. In traditional synagogues they wash the hands of the kohanim before the priestly benediction and receive the second aliyah (call to read) to the Torah.

An interesting motif featuring a leaping lion appears on the tombstone of Judah Leib Ber Berlin (section 4, row 33, no. 5). He was buried in 1853 and the tombstone is among the oldest in the cemetery. A lion is a symbol of the tribe of Judah and of King David, who originated from this tribe. There are several tombstones with a weeping willow motif, which was a commonly used symbol in the 19th century.

Smutná vŕba

The importance of the deceased is often expressed instead in poetic Hebrew texts on the tombstones. Hebrew is the dominant language of the texts; later tombstones also feature German texts written in Hebrew script. Hungarian is almost non-existent here, as its use in Bratislava was somewhat typical among Neolog Jews. The graves from the post-war period also feature Latin script, and some Slovak language.





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