CCAR RESPONSA

New American Reform Responsa

184. A Colored Tombstone

QUESTION: The deceased, a well known local avant garde artist, has asked that a bright yellow imported stone be used as a tombstone. This is in keeping with some of the material which he used for his sculpture. The cemetery committee wishes to know whether we must acceed to his request as this would be out of keeping with the rest of the cemetery. (Ross Kagan, Chicago IL)

ANSWER: The first mention of marking a grave was with Rachel as the patriarch Jacob set up a pillar in her honor (Gen 35.20); similarly the graves of the ancient Israelite and Judean kings were provided with monuments. In the later period graves were marked so that the priests could avoid contact with the dead (M M K 1.2). Generally these gravemarker were made of stone as this is a durable material (Greenwald Kol Bo al Avelut), but there is no absolute requirement. In reading through the literature I have found nothing about tombstones of unusual material or of any colored tombstones. Normally the locally available stone was used.

The cemetery committee has the power to set the rules for everything connected with the cemetery and its care. They may reject this request.

April 1990

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.