Anger over Jewish cemetery vandalism turns into unity

People gathered for a vigil outside Chesed Chel Emeth Cemetery in University City after it was vandalized. Credit: KMOV

A crowd gathered outside the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on Tuesday after it was vandalized over the weekend.

The Chesed Shel Emeth Society said the official count of headstones damaged is at 154. The two organizers of the candlelight vigil on Tuesday said they just felt like they had to do something.

“It takes you from the devastation and the heartache that I felt just a few hours earlier to feeling we are united,” said Mike Minoff.

They were wowed by the turnout after just five hours of Facebook work to invite people after they got permission from the city and the cemetery.

The showing of support started early Tuesday morning. Philip Weiss is the owner of Rosenbloom Monument Company which is located across the street from the cemetery. He had a meeting with the cemetery at 7:30 a.m. to offer some advice, and by 9 a.m. his crews were out working for free.

“A lot of people that came by this afternoon were surprised to see that a lot of them were already up-right again,” said Weiss.

By Tuesday night, Weiss said they raised 100 of the stones. He said they will return Wednesday to hopefully finish the rest, and soon they will seal them so the work will be permanent.

Weiss said the stones that actually broke will have to be replaced.

Many people walked by the cemetery Tuesday to see the damage for themselves.

“It was really difficult, although I don’t have family in this cemetery I am Jewish so it almost feels like my family because it’s my people, my culture,” said Washington University freshman Kayla Steinberg.

Police haven’t ruled anything out, but they also haven’t announced if it was a targeted hate crime or just a prank by someone.

For Steinberg she said it’s all bad and heartbreaking.

“If it is and was a hate crime, then at least I would know someone would do it with some kind of intention, however if it was just done as a prank or because people thought it was funny, that really makes me lose hope in humanity,” said Steinberg.

Weiss, who works with headstones every day, said this is the time of year he’s seen an increase in senseless vandalism.

“This unfortunately doesn’t just happen to Jewish cemeteries, this happens periodically everywhere. Typically, this time of year it warms up and kids are looking for stuff to do, and unfortunately this is what they do sometimes,” said Weiss.

The cemetery posted the information below so families can call to confirm whether or not their loved one’s stone was damaged.

Call 314-721-4658 or 314-469-1891

The affected parts of the cemetery are blocks:3E, 3W, 4E, 4W, 55W, 6.5E, 14, 15, 16, 17, 26, 27, 28, 29

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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