Jul 12, 2009

Beth Israel Cemetery

Fox Angel by Finijo

After breakfast this morning, Dave and I headed to the College Memorial Park Cemetery, but found another old cemetery on the way, so we stopped there. We had stumbled upon the Beth Israel Cemetery at 1207 West Dallas, and I was pretty excited, because not only was it quite old (established in 1844), but it was also Jewish. I never visited a Jewish cemetery before, so this was really interesting to me. I was a little surprised to see a lone angel on one of the graves, as I thought that was primarily a Christian symbol.
Broken Column Headstone by Finijo
We noticed that there were some motifs throughout the cemetery and wondered about their meaning. I did some research and found that a broken column is symbolic of a life cut short. It can also represent sorrow and/or the eventual decomposition of us all. It could also mean the death of a family head, according to the information I found.
Draped Urn Tombstone by Finijo
The draped urn is thought to be symbolic of immortality. It can also represent sorrow or mourning. Usually represents the death of an older person. This is the tombstone for Henriette Jones, the wife of T.W. Jones. She died in 1887 at age 29. Engraved on the stone are these words by William Wordsworth:
Lo! Where the silent marble weeps,
A friend, a wife, a mother sleeps.
A heart, within whose sacred cell
The peaceful virtues love to dwell.
Beth Israel Mausoleum Chandelier by Finijo
In the main mausoleum hangs a beautiful Art Deco chandelier. It was a little hard to get a good picture, but if you look at the larger image, you will see that there are Stars of David crowning the fixture. I wish I could have gotten a clearer picture, but the lighting in the mausoleum is dim. You will have to take my word for it, it is quite lovely and unique.
Levy Chamber by Finijo
This is the Levy family chamber in the main mausoleum. Each chamber holds ten family members. There are smaller mausoleums around the main building, and the Levy family has a couple of those, as well. I was really drawn to the stained glass. This window shows a wreath suspended between two columns. Wreaths have been used as funereal symbols since ancient Greek times. The columns are topped by flames and an arch. The arch represents heavenly entrance and the flames, eternity.
Beth Israel Stained Glass by Finijo
This window is a beautiful example of Art Deco stained glass. There are shapes, but the symbolism, if it exists, is lost on me. "Art Deco structure is based on mathematical geometric shapes," and it is purely for aesthetic value. It is meant to be beautiful for beauty's sake.
Beth Israel Stained Glass Double Panel by Finijo
This window appears to open, which is a nice feature, because the building is not air conditioned. It also features the geometric Art Deco shapes that are mirrored throughout the building, which was designed by Joseph Finger and constructed in 1935. Joseph Finger was a member of the Beth Israel congregation and a successful architect of the period.

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