Keep This Classic Cemetery Open to the Public!

Beth Haim Ouderkerk is the most magnificent and important of the historic cemeteries in the Jewish Atlantic World. It is the birthplace of the unique Sephardic sepulchral tradition that spread throughout Hamburg, London, Newport, New York, and the Caribbean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The cemetery opened in 1614, and some of the oldest (and most famous) stones imitate the coffin-shaped style found in medieval Spanish Jewish cemeteries and Sephardic cemeteries in the Ottoman Empire. These stones have been memorialized in paintings and drawings by Dutch artists like Romeyn de Hooghe (1645–1708) and Jacob van Ruysdael (1628/9-1682). By the final quarter of the seventeenth century, a distinctive tradition emerged in the cemetery: flat table stones with a predilection for elaborate carvings that often include death’s heads, angels, biblical scenes, the hand of God cutting down the tree of life, and heraldic images. Members of the Sephardic elite in the colonies imitated these stones, and often even imported stones from Amsterdam before their death. This incredible cemetery has been open to the public and available as an important heritage site for travelers and scholars from around the world. The site is also a priceless resource for genealogists.

Gravestone featuring Daniel and the Lions, Beth Haim Ouderkerk (Photo by L. Leibman, 2009)

The recent economic crisis is also hitting Beth Haim Ouderkerk. The lack of donations have created a situation where the annual municipal subsidies may be withdrawn. The lack of these funds will halt maintenance work and make it difficult to keep the cemetery open to the public.

You can help! As this tax season ends and you consider making charitable donations, keep Beth Haim Ouderkerk in mind. You can also support the cemetery by purchasing books about the cemetery. All proceeds go to the Beth Haim.

To learn more about this classic cemetery, please enjoy the most recent newsletter (Thank you to Dennis Ouderdorp for being willing to share it!):
De Castro Newsletter 17-1

All photos from Beth Haim Ouderkerk by Laura Leibman, 2009.

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