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Why put rocks on a headstone?

Answer Man column sig
Answer Man column sig

This Classic Answer Man was first published in September 2009.

While in Oakwood Cemetery in Rochester recently, I noticed many of the headstones in the Jewish section of the cemetery had small rocks placed on top of them. I assume this was NOT the work of squirrels and am wondering what the significance of the rocks is?

It’s an ancient tradition in Jewish culture for visitors to place a stone on the tomb of a loved one as a sign of respect, to show that loved ones visit and tend to the site, and as evidence that the monument is never finished and memories of a loved one never fade. Flowers generally aren’t placed on Jewish graves, although my understanding is that it’s not forbidden and traditions vary among Jewish communities and cemeteries.

Oakwood was established a few years after the Rochester City Post, the P-B’s ancestral predecessor, published "a call to select a prominent place to bury the dead of Rochester" in 1860. Prior to that, the city’s pioneer dead were buried in an area between East Center Street and Third Street Southeast, between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

Which is bigger, you might ask, the historic Oakwood Cemetery or the new Oakwood East cemetery on Olmsted County Road 2, east of Century High School? Answer: They’re more or less the same at about 50 acres.

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