When workers at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri arrived at their jobs on Monday morning, they were shocked to find that the cemetery had been vandalized over the weekend, with dozens of matzeivos knocked down and damaged. The workers immediately contacted cemetery officials, who contacted the police and began investigating the incident.
Chesed Shel Emeth was established in 1893. At that time, it was located far from the Jewish community, but in recent years, the community expanded, and it is now located just a few blocks from key Jewish institutions.
“We are very concerned about our families,” said Mrs. Anita Feigenbaum, executive director of Chesed Shel Emeth. “We are working with the police to try to determine who did this and why. At this point, we don’t really know if they are after the Jewish community specifically or just vandalized the first cemetery that they found.”
The event raised much nervous sentiment in the Jewish community, as many are speculating that this was indeed an anti-Semitic act. This vandalism comes on the heels of other anti-Semitic acts and threats around the country, such as bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers.
Religious groups across St. Louis expressed their concern and solidarity with the Jewish community. Mr. Avraham Moshe Simon, president of Chesed Shel Emeth, commented that approximately 180 matzeivos were damaged.
Chesed Shel Emeth is working on compiling a comprehensive list of matzeivos that were damaged, and posting it on their social media page. As the vandalism occurred in the older part of the cemetery, most of the graves affected were from 1893 through the 1940’s. However, the section does hold some newer graves, as families purchased plots of land which continued to be used years later.
Chesed Shel Emeth is working with a monument company to restore the matzeivos; some have already been set back up. They are also working to increase security and surveillance in all parts of the cemetery.
Rabbi Shaya Mintz, Executive Director of the St. Louis Community Kollel, stated that people in the kollel and community seemed shaken up, both from concern for kvod hameis, and for concern for the safety of the community. Some commented that their parents or grandparents are buried there, and went to the cemetery to see if their relatives’ graves were damaged.
Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt, Rav of the Agudath Israel of St. Louis, has been receiving phone calls from around the world, from people inquiring whether their relatives’ matzeivos were damaged.
Mr. Simon remarked that those wishing to inquire about the matzeivos of their relatives buried in Chesed Shel Emeth can call the cemetery office at 314-469-1891, and leave a message. However, they should aware that due to the large volume of calls, it may take some time before all calls will be returned.
Updated Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 5:40 pm