According to Jewish traditions, a Jew must be buried only amongst other Jews, in a Jewish cemetery. Jewish custom considers it a matter of great importance that only other Jews handle the body of a deceased Jew, move the casket, place it in the ground and fill in the grave-site.
A Jewish cemetery will typically include some combination of the following monuments: single headstones, double headstones, triple headstones, benches, open beds, and family headstones, to name a few. Which types of headstones or monuments that you will see will depend on what rules and regulations for monuments are in effect at the cemetery that you’re visiting as these rules may vary from cemetery to cemetery. You might also see something called “etchings” at a Jewish cemetery. An etching is a picture of a loved one etched into the headstone by a professional artist.
You will likely also come across several different symbols at various grave-sites at a Jewish cemetery. One of these common symbols is a tree trunk which is symbolic of the “tree of life” being cut down – these are often used to convey the fact that an individual died at a young age. Another such symbol is a draped urn or vessel on top of a monument and the draping is a sign of grief. Candlesticks are yet another common symbol found in a Jewish cemetery and they represent a Jewish woman’s reverence towards their religion. Always keep in mind, only Jewish symbols are permitted in a Jewish cemetery – you won’t see any other religious or secular symbols.
There are a few things that are forbidden at Jewish cemeteries which you should be aware of if you visit one. A Jewish cemetery will close on Shabbat and all major Jewish holidays, so visitation must occur outside of those days. Eating and drinking is not permitted anywhere in the confines of the cemetery, you must dress appropriately (nothing flashy or revealing), you should not carry a Torah into the cemetery and you are not allowed to step over or sit on the gravestone that directly covers a grave. As a rule of thumb, be sure that whatever you do at a Jewish cemetery (how you dress, gifts you bring, etc.) is always done in a sincerely religious manner.