15 April 2010

Live Long & Prosper

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Cemetery Coming St. Charleston, S.C

A few years ago, my friend Charles W. invited me to join a tour during an open house at the Beth Elohim temple on Hassel St. It was beautiful, but the icing on the cake for me was to walk out of the temple and get on a bus to explore the Jewish Cemetery on Coming St. Established in 1762 this is the oldest Jewish Cemetery in the south. I'd walked past the locked gates a million times so it was a treat to get inside.

I was fascinated by the hand symbols on the old tombstones and learned it was the sign of a priestly blessing. On further research I found this:

Cemetery Symbols:
On Jewish tombstones you will sometimes see a symbol showing two hands arranged for the Priestly Blessing like the example here......

And yes, Star Trek fans… You’ve probably noticed the similarity between this symbol and the Vulcan hand greeting (“live long and prosper”) used in the TV show and movies. This was suggested by actor Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), who saw the Priestly Blessing in a synagogue when he was a child. He modified it as Vulcans use only one hand. See: The Jewish Origin of the Vulcan Salute

Exploring further I followed up with a visit to the Jewish Cemetery off upper Meeting St. next to Magnolia to find the same symbols there.

This post is for my friend Leah who I expect I'll soon bump into in a cemetery.