Braid Place cemetery was the first communal Jewish cemetery in Edinburgh, although not the first Jewish burying place. You will recall that, by the time a community was established in 1817, there were 20 Jewish families in Edinburgh, and that the number remained relatively stable over the next 20 years. This cemetery was consecrated only a few years later, in 1820.
But let’s first look at the area. Across the road was the house of the moral philosopher, Professor Adam Ferguson, one of that renowned group of literati of Edinburgh’s ‘Golden Age’, of the Scottish Enlightenment, where in 1786 the only meeting between Sir Walter Scott and Rabbie Burns took place. In that era, the house was so remote (remember that Boroughloch had to be negotiated) that his house was called Kamchatka, the name of a small village on the peninsula of north-eastern Siberia. Even 34 years later, when the Braid Place Jewish cemetery was consecrated, the area was considered remote.
The name of this area, Sciennes, derives from the Dominican convent of Catherine of Sienna, which was built here in 1517, but which was destroyed soon after in the Reformation. The site of the convent is marked by a plaque in the gardens of 16 St Catherine’s Place.
29 separate stones can be found in this cemetery. They are rapidly disintegrating (just 40 years ago, far more letters could be deciphered). But let’s just dwell on one stone, that of Moses Ezekiel, both because it is in immaculate condition and because something is known of him. He was a sealing wax manufacturer who lived on Adam Street in the heart of the Jewish area and whose business in 1825 was located at 5 Drummond Street. He died aged 74, in 1850, although it is possible that he died elsewhere because his last child was born in Newcastle. He had bought himself a plot through membership of the Edinburgh Chevrah Kadisha, the Jewish burial society.
He married Katherine or Kayle, who was born in Arundel Sussex in 1793 and who died at age of 84 in London in 1877. She did not have her first child until she was 31, but then went on to have 8 more in rapid succession.
The inscription on the headstone reads as follows:
HEADSTONE OF MOSES EZEKIEL (VAN NOORDEN) 5610, (1850)
איש הישר בנדיבים: אשר הלך בדרך
טובים: כל מעשיו עשה בכושר:
בד‘ דבק נפשו ביושר: גופו יישן ארצה:
ונשמתו לגן עדן נרצה: משה בן החב’
ר’ אברהם יחזקאל ז”ל נפטר ונקבר
:ביום ג” כ”ב תמוז שנת ת”ר”י”ל”פ”ק ת”נ”צ”ב”ה’
Here is buried
An upright man amongst benefactors
Who walked in the path of good deeds.
All his actions were proper,
His soul cleaved to God with integrity.
His body will sleep in the ground,
But his soul is summoned to the Garden of Eden.
MOSES, SON OF REB AVRAHAM EZEKIEL Z”L DIED AND WAS BURIED ON TUESDAY, 22nd TAMMUZ IN THE YEAR (5)610, abv.
(corresponding to July 2nd 1850)
May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.