Photograph 5


The general caption “Before the Kippaw” is used for this and the preceding photographs to designate the beginning of what the photographer understood as a kind of ritual. Thus the first step is arrival at the cemetery and then searching, often with the aid of a honaci, for a specific tomb.
This well-dressed diminutive lady has mounted a tomb in one of the most congested sections of the cemetery, dating back to the 18th century. Among these, however, could be found more recent burials. Being buried in close proximity to an especially holy person was considered to be of great advantage to the dead. In certain areas, graves were so closely packed that it was necessary to walk across the tops of them as is apparently the case with this woman.
Probably this lady has come to make supplication at the tomb of a holy person, as in photograph 8 she appears again before a tomb that would have pre-dated her parent’s generation. A personal visit to the tomb of some venerable rabbi of saint could have been dictated by a number of needs. The tomb of R. Samuel Gaon was often visited by persons seeking his intercession. Belief in the powers of the deceased was so strong that often written requests were stuffed into the hands of venerable rabbis just before their interment. Molho mentions how once, during a drought that brought the entire population of Salonika into near despair, one of the most respected rabbis of the city, R. Levi Gattegno died. At the moment of his burial an appeal to God in the form of a note was pressed into his hand, and as the crowd of mourners and supplicants returned to the city, dark clouds began to gather in the sky, and within a short period of time lightning and thunder broke up the gathering and heavy rains began to fall. Needless to say the end of the drought was attributed by not only the Jews but Muslims and Christians alike to the intercession of R. Gattegno.
The costume of this woman is quite chic and the textiles very rich as is indicated by the heavy folds of her sayo, heavy silk devantal and sheen of the antari. The last seems to have been made of a special atlas (satin) that was usually imported from Damascus especially for making these garments. The very exposed bodice of the costume is clear in this picture and was noted often by foreigners.
In the background are recognizable the Idadiye Mektebe as well as section of Hortaci Effendi Cami. To the right is a further section of the wall of the Ma’min cemetery. This, like all Muslim cemeteries, was quite heavily planted with trees whereas the Jewish cemetery was quite barren and had little vegetation.