A Jewish cemetery is often referred to as a “House of Life.”
Each gravestone or other funerary monument commemorates the life of an individual or family; or in some cases marks a mass grave. These stones tell stories: through epitaphs, through carved decoration; sometimes through photographs, sculptures, or other types of portraits of the person or people remembered. But — given space concerns and other burial conventions — the life stories they tell are fragmentary or limited. Many gravestones bear only names and dates.
The historic Willesden Jewish Cemetery in London is hosting an event May 26 — “Inheritance Day” — aimed at providing an entryway into deeper knowledge.
As part of its “House of Life” project to open the cemetery to the public, nine families will be coming to the cemetery on May 26 to tell stories of people buried there. See the list in the poster below.
We hope that the stories they tell will be taken down and/or recorded — and posted either online or in print.
With some 29,800 graves and founded in 1872-73, Willesden is one of the largest and most important of England’s Victorian-era Jewish burial places. It is the only Jewish cemetery on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. Funerary buildings, the UK’s first national Jewish war memorial, and three tombs were listed Grade II by Historic England in 2017.
Last year, the cemetery received a £1.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to enable it to open to the public as a place of heritage. Also on May 26 there will be a ceremony to open a restored iron gate and mark the start of other conservation and access works.