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Defacing a cemetery and bomb threats make me angry

I was not sad on Monday when I found out more Jewish Community Centers had received bomb threats that forced evacuations. I was not sad later that day when I found out Chessed Shel Emeth Cemetery was vandalized and over 100 stones were toppled. I was not sad.


I was ANGRY! I am still angry. I am frustrated that people believe hatred wins. It does not win.

This wave of anti-Semitism has touched me on several occasions. My sister and nephew were exercising at the Tenafly, New Jersey, JCC when it had to be evacuated in bitter cold weather. Children and elderly had to walk or be taken to a safe place.

Our Jewish Community Center in Overland Park has been on high security for over two years now since a horrible instance of anti-Semitic violence led to three deaths. Our JCC has also received bomb threats within the last month. I am used to seeing armed guards at the JCC and at our synagogues.

But today was the final straw. Today the cemetery — Chessed Shel Emeth in University City, Missouri, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri — where my husband’s parents and grandparents, as well as his great aunt and uncle, are buried was vandalized. I am so angry that someone thinks toppling graves is acceptable. I think my anger is intensified because so many of my family have no graves. Their remains are included in the ashes of the concentration camps and destroyed Jewish communities in Europe.

I think I am angry because by destroying graves, they — the haters — try to wipe out memory. I am always searching in my family’s genealogy, always wondering about who came before and how are we related. So I say to the haters, “It will not happen. We carry each person’s name and memory as a blessing.”

I contacted the cemetery as soon as I found out to discover the status of our family graves. I was surprised at how quickly I had a response. I was contacted within an hour that our stones were not toppled.

I want to thank all those who reached out to us. I am glad that the community is coming together to help repair the damage. Donations can be made to help pay for the damage.

And I say to those making threats and trying to destroy cemeteries, you will be found. You will be punished. This is not Europe of 1939. This is the United States of America. And you are in the wrong. We stand united.

I am angry, but I believe in goodness. And I will continue to work with and focus on those who want a better world. I think we need to spread kindness, but we also need to find those who are perpetuating these acts and hold them responsible for their actions. It is just wrong.

To make a donation to assist in the cemetery clean-up, visit https://www.chesedshelemeth.org/how-to-donate.html

Ellen R. Portnoy is a local community volunteer, works at the Accelerated Schools of Overland Park, journalist and blogger. This column originally appeared in her blog Zicharonot, which can be found at Zicharonot.wordpress.com.