Stones of Respect [Pilgrimage to Jackson, MS] Chapter 6

The Stones of Respect placed on the grave of our great grandmother, Anna Bernstein Korn, represent all of you wonderful Korn cousins and my Greenwald family.

On a crisp, sunny April morning, Cynthia and I set out to complete a journey that had originated forty years ago. We were finally on the road to Jackson, Mississippi to view Anna’s gravesite.

It’s a long, uninteresting drive and we talked about our lives and our children’s lives compared to the tragedy and suffering of Anna’s… and her young children’s.

Cynthia at Area of Anna's Grave |
Cynthia at Area of Anna’s Grave

A sign read “JACKSON 98”, then “JACKSON 90”. But finally, “JACKSON EXIT A”.  When we took that exit, I looked up and saw, “North State Street”. There it was, the street of Synagogue Beth Israel’s cemetery. Within a minute, we came to the cemetery, pulled onto the drive that passes through it, and I realized from the “Find A Grave” website directions, that we were very near Anna’s resting place. We stopped, got out, and walked directly to her area of gravestones that had once been standing, but now were flat in the grass. In seconds, the forty-year search was over. I was standing at the 120-year-old gravestone of our great grandmother.

I felt a great sense of closure …the end of a journey. Cynthia walked over to join me. We stood there and enjoyed the quiet of the moment. I thought, “Why is Anna here? How did she get here from Jackson, Louisiana …over 150 miles away?”

I had spoken with the current rabbi at Beth Israel in hopes that we might find some old records of the synagogue that would explain how she arrived there. But he told me that there were no records that old.

Knowing that her husband had contacts with other rabbis in Mississippi, my speculation is that perhaps Beth Israel’s rabbi in Jackson, Mississippi offered the plot and gravestone in an act of kindness to a fellow rabbi.

And so, my wonderful cousins, my Greenwald family, for all of you, Cynthia and I placed Stones of Respect* on the gravestone of Anna Bernstein Korn.

Stones Placed on Anna's Gravestone |
Stones Placed on Anna’s Gravestone

*Why Jews Put Stones on Graves

In the final scene of the movie Schindler’s List, survivors and their cinematic offspring file by the grave of Oskar Schindler. With solemn ceremony, they place stones on the grave. Why should they leave stones rather than flowers? From where does this strange custom come?

Although the custom of placing stones on a grave probably draws upon pagan customs, the stones also symbolize the permanence of memory.

But the memory is supposed to be lasting. While flowers may be a good metaphor for the brevity of life, stones seem better suited to the permanence of memory. Stones do not die.

While other things fade, stones and souls endure.


12 comments on “Stones of Respect [Pilgrimage to Jackson, MS] Chapter 6

  1. How exciting! What are your next plans? Locate the ship the family traveled on from Europe?

    • How did you know, Katie? It’s name was the ‘Kornhauler’. It’s was restricted to passengers who were intellectually “Way Up There”, clarinet players, percussionists, and various and assorted forensic pathologists. Go figure. Love you. -Hank

  2. A final tribute. Too bad we know nothing of her life before children.

    • Very true Elaine. Here’s my guess…. She was the daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Breslau and Jacob was a young rabinical student in Breslau.

  3. Quite a success story, Hank. Congratulations to you and lucky us. Thank you for placing the stones.
    Have you looked much in to our great-great grandfather’s life in Breslau?
    It is lovely to have a family historian.
    Thank you!

  4. I am so thrilled for you. Your stubbornness in completing this search has certainly paid off. Great work, Cuz!

  5. Another adventure. So happy you found the grave of our great grandmother! Love you! Emilee

  6. Robert Bilgrad

    July 14, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Hi Hank — I just finished reading your Chapter 6 dedicated to your great grandmother’s final resting place. Very nicely written. And I commend you on the format of your website. I especially appreciated your explanation of the meaning of the “Stones of Respect. I was aware of the custom of laying stones on the grave, as my Sister Eleanor and I did for my mother’s grave, but I never really new the true meaning of that custom. Thank you for including that explanation.

    • Many thanks Boobby. All the work pays off when a special friend like you writes a comment, especially one with thoughtfulness such as yours.

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