Jewish Sephardic cemetery in Belgrade
There are several different and paradoxical terms for cemetery in the Hebrew language:
the house of tombs (Hebr. Bet kevarot), the house of eternity (Hebr. Bet olam), and the house of life (Hebr. Bet chaim).
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson explains that these three expressions reflect three ways in which life and death can be interpreted. If life is defined only as a physical experience, an opportunity to maintain, nurture and satisfy the material and the physical, then death is a tragic cessation of existence. If, however, life is seen as spiritual experience, and not just physical, then death is not the absolute interruption of life. […] The soul never dies, it goes on living, loving and feeling in another dimension, on a spiritual level that eludes our senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. […] Cemetery thus becomes the house of eternity. Yet another, higher level is attained when the values of the deceased continue to have an impact on the everyday lives and conduct of the living. Then, the cemetery becomes the house of life. The deceased person’s dreams and ideas continue to live in a very tangible way, through the earthly existence of their loved ones.
Pictures by Linda Paganelli
The Jewish cemetery in Belgrade constitutes the largest Jewish memorial complex in Serbia. Covering an area of 12,748 square meters, it contains approximately 3,000 tombstones and has accommodated nearly 4,000 interments to date.
Following the near-annihilation of the Jewish Community of Belgrade during the Holocaust, the cemetery stands as one of the most precious testimonies of its existence. Known as the New Cemetery until the Second World War, it was owned and used by the Jewish Religious Community of the Sephardic Rite. It served for the burial of the Jews of the Sephardic provenience with occasional burials of the members of the Ashkenazi community as well.
Today, Belgrade’s only active Jewish cemetery is in the care of the society Chevra Kadisha, a body of the Jewish community of Belgrade.
From the monography Burial Ground Complex of the Jewish Cemetery in Belgrade. Jewish Historical Museum in Belgrade, 2019.