A retirement home overlooking a cemetery?(!) Well, there’s an interesting concept. While we don’t know how uplifting a prospect it is for the folks who live here, you’ll be drawn into the exceptional beauty and quiet of this medieval Jewish burial ground.
Rossau cemetery is among Europe’s oldest Jewish cemeteries, with its oldest grave dating back to 1545—a time when Jews were not freely permitted to live in Vienna.
You’ll want to visit the magnificent sarcophagus of Samson Wertheimer, who was buried here in 1724. Wertheimer was widely known in his day as the “King of the Jews,” on account of his long-standing service to the Hapsburg court as a financier and creditor of the state, and his dedication to the Jewish community as chief rabbi of Hungary and Moravia.
There’s also a curious stone monument of a fish that scholars today believe was a medieval water fountain used for ritual washing. According to ancient legend, it is the burial site of a talking fish that had revealed himself as a dybbuk, or demon. Apparently, this fish was about to be slaughtered when it suddenly cried out the “Shema Israel,” the traditional prayer recited by Jews upon death – while witnesses of this spectacle were gripped in awe and panic.
Entrance to the cemetery is through the old age home during regular visiting hours.
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