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.
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.
*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.