Re: [Cz-L] A most extraordinary cemetery restoration story...

From: Simon Kreindler <>
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2008 21:40:52 -0400
To: Cernowitz List <>
Reply-to: Simon Kreindler <>

jerome schatten wrote:
> Czernowitzers... I happened to spot this link in a post on the
> JewishGen listserv. This is certainly an outstanding example of what
> 'could' happen as regards cemetery restoration, and is well worth a
> read. If you take the time to click on the link, do not exit until
> you've read the amazing story of Rita Vaiva (the link to this is in
> the article), a non-Jewish lass who started restoring the stones in
> this Lithuanian cemetery anonymously and who taught herself Hebrew in
> order to do it. Magnificent!
> Here's the direct link:
> I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
> Best,
> jerome


Thanks very much for this story, it was fascinating and had particular
significance for me.

As you may know, I was born and grew up in Barbados. Starting in the
1650s, Sepharadi Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Brazil began settling
in Barbados and brought with them the technological knowhow to develop
the sugar cane industry. In any event, they built a synagogue, the Nidhe
Israel, (the second oldest in the Western hemisphere after Curacao) and
a cemetery. The community played an important role on the island for
almost three hundred years and many of its members are buried in the
cemetery. Eventually, it died out however, the result of immigration and
assimilation. The last member of the community died in 1931 and since
the late 1920s there has been a smaller Askenazi community that came
 from Europe.

Now the connection with the Yurburg cemetery and the remarkable work of
Rita Vaiva. In 1936 Eustace M. Shillstone, a non-Jewish, Barbados
barrister and history buff, recognized there was a rich Sephardi history
"buried" in the cemetery that needed to be preserved. He taught himself
Hebrew and copied and translated all the epitaphs on all the tombstones
(at least the ones he could see). Ultimately, his work was published in
a monograph entitled "Monumental Inscriptions in the Jewish Synagogue at
Bridgetown Barbados." Shillstone's efforts played an important role in
the ultimate restoration of the synagogue (staring in the 1980s) and
subsequently in the restoration of the cemetery itself (in the process
of which many other tombstones were discovered further underground).

Best regards,

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Received on 2008-03-18 01:40:52

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