Jewish Matzeva (Tombstone) Stonemasons? #slovakia

Madeleine Isenberg

Hi Everyone,

Over the years that I have been reading the engraved inscriptions on matzevot, I discovered that some stonemasons "signed" their works or maybe it was a form of advertising since it sometimes had an associated town where they had their workshops, or both.  I'm trying to focus on a time period of roughly 1800-World War II, and anywhere in the world.  (We know that in contemporary times, once someone provides the format of the lettering, anyone with the current power tools and templates, could do the work.)

I have quite a list of such craftsmen, mostly in Slovakia, but some in nearby countries (Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Poland), from where people preferred to "import" their matzevot.

Unfortunately, I have not had much success if locating descendants of such craftsmen, or if I did, these descendants have no information about how such a mason gained his training, how well they supported their families.  I jokingly say, I have yet to find someone who wrote, "Memoirs of a Jewish Stonemason."

Here are a few questions and I will probably have more:

  1. Was such a monumental stonemason apprenticed to a guild? 
  2. Were Jews permitted to join such guilds?
    1. If so, when were they allowed to join?
  3. What additional Jewish knowledge did they need to ensure that inscriptions were grammatically correct?
  4. Did people by-pass a rabbinic authority and go directly to the stonemason?
    1. Some places might have had a Chevra Kadisha who approved of the proposed content and did they check the final product?
  5. What imagery did they use and what did they avoid?  (Some Sephardic stones had imagery not as constrained as Ashkenazi).  

Despite trying to research online and read many articles, it has been very difficult to pinpoint any useful details.

So, anyone out there -- any suggestions?
Madeleine Isenberg
Beverly Hills, CA
Researching: GOLDMAN, STEINER, LANGER, GLUECKSMAN, STOTTER in various parts of Galicia, Poland
(Nowy Targ, Nowy Sanz, Wachsmund, Dembno, Lapuszna, Krakow, Ochotnica) who migrated into Kezmarok or
nearby towns in northern Slovakia and Czech Republic (i.e., those who lived/had businesses in Moravska Ostrava);
GOLDSTEIN in Sena or Szina, Szkaros and Kosice, Slovakia; Tolcsva and Tokaj, Hungary.

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