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.

ellen fine

I found your search for stone mason guilds and training very interesting. This week a friend posted photos on his fb page of the stone cutters and 
craft guildsmen of Italian origin who lived in Barre, Vermont and created quite a community. They were not Jewish. However, a thought comes to mind that perhaps there were immigrant corners of immigrant Jewish people who were employed in the task in the making and engraving of graves stones and markers.  Would it be valuable to follow a path of these artisans in this country, Canada, England and France another countries to see if some of these families were multi generational and some came to North America to work in this profession here?
Incidentally, my friend was so moved to photograph some of the graves and memorials because the people buried underneath died during the last Pandemic, the Influenza Epidemic of 2018 and onwards, noting the beauty of the work and the tragedy of their deaths during a Pandemic
I hope these thoughts are helpful,
Ellen Fine



I suspect you mean the influenza epidemic of 1918 and onwards.

Henry Best,
London, UK.

Aaron Slotnik

Hi Madeleine,

You may want to try to consult Professor Heidi Szpek ( ).  While refreshing my memory on her work, I came across this seemingly particularly relevant article of hers (

Aaron Slotnik
Chicago, IL