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Longfellow and the Jewish Cemetery at Newport

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Gateway to the Colonial Jewish Cemetery of Newport

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Gateway to the Colonial Jewish Cemetery of Newport / Maine Historical Society

<em>"Blessed be God! for he created Death!"
The mourners said, "and Death is rest and peace;"
Then added, in the certainty of faith,
"And giveth Life that nevermore shall cease." </em>

By the mid-19th century, there was a less grim view about death (versus during the colonial period, when religious dogma indicated that few would be "saved" in the afterlife).

People began to look on death as "rest and peace," and felt more assured of reunion with loved ones in the afterlife. In fact, the habit of exploring cemeteries became popular for tourists such as Longfellow, and even local cemeteries were seen as places for meditation and spirituality.

However, these perspectives were peculiar to Christians, not Jews. The words that Longfellow imagines the Jewish mourners saying reflect the Protestant theology of his day, not the Jewish perspective on death, which does not encompass a concept of "eternal life."


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