I visited a cemetery yesterday and noticed that most of the rows of plots had double graves where husband and wife were buried next to each other. However, some of the rows had only men while the women were buried in a separate section across an "aisle". I.e., there were some rows for only men and across the aisle, a few rows for just women.

The plot belongs to a defunct shul, and the shul's president is now in his own plot, so I can't directly get an answer from him. Was there any minhag of some communities to have men and women buried separately in "single gender" areas? What was the reason for this?

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    How many of the single gender rows were married. It could have been people who died single or who were unable to purchase a double plot because the cemetary had gotten too crowded. – sabbahillel Nov 16 '15 at 22:52
  • @sabbahillel In this cemetery, that's highly unlikely. I knew many of the people, personally & most were married. I think I indicated that in my 1st sentence. – DanF Nov 17 '15 at 14:35
  • Your first sentence stated that the double graves were prevalent. I was wondering if the people in the single sex rows were married or if the cemetary had gotten crowded enough that double plots were no longer available. I have also seen situations in which people could not afford to buy double plots and had to get what was available when it was needed. – sabbahillel Nov 17 '15 at 15:54
  • @sabbahillel Your initial question is valid as a general rule; I'm not discounting that. I'm just affirming that in this specific cemetery, as I knew many of those now buried there, at the time that they were buried there was plenty of room for doubles and of those I knew, including my relatives, could have afforded doubles. AFAIK, the double plots are cheaper, too. – DanF Nov 17 '15 at 17:09
  • OK thanks. I was just trying to get the background – sabbahillel Nov 17 '15 at 17:32

From Chabad.org

The basic grave formation in most cemeteries is arranged according to families. There has been a custom in later centuries, observed by many memorial societies, of burying men and women in separate sections. Neither custom is obligatory. One should make inquiry regarding this procedure before one joins the society, in order to avoid problems during the moment of crisis when it is too late to make any change.

In many cemeteries it is standard procedure--and a religiously proper custom--not to bury a woman next to any man other than her husband. This is of concern especially when contemplating erection of a double monument. Therefore, the graves alternate-husband, wife, wife, husband, husband, wife, etc.

Apparently this is a somewhat recent custom but it is indeed a custom.

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  • I am wondering whether separation of sexes is a Hungarian Jewish custom. The Hungarian Jews were the ones who pushed separate seating at weddings, despite the fact that there are gedolim from other parts of Europe who were married where men and women sat together, this I heard from Rabbi Berel Wein. He adds that one reason that custom is taking over here is that more Hungarian Jews survived the war than those from other countries. So I'm wondering if they brought with them separate seating for eternity. – Bruce James Dec 14 '15 at 18:54

There were also separate rows or sections for men and women in many Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe and not only in Hungary. The custom was later transferred to North America and Eretz Israel with some of the more Orthodox communities. The custom is known to exist since the 17th century, as one can see in the Pinkas of Hevra Kadisha in the town of Slutsk. There, gender separation was by rows.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya Amiram! Thanks for this interesting and informative post! Consider reading this short useful Beginners' Guide to the site regarding how this site differs from others. One notable characteristic of Mi Yodeya is emphasis on sources. How do you know about the Pinkas from Slutk? You obviously didnt make it up. Consider adding a link, or reference. Hope to see you around the site! – mevaqesh Jul 10 '17 at 8:32

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