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Local Jewish cemeteries address security, issue joint statement after vandalism in University City

UNIVERSITY CITY, MO (KPLR) They are sacred grounds. But Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis area are not taking any chances with security after one their own was vandalized last month.

Directors of all seven Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis area issued a joint statement condemning the desecration at Chesed Shel-Emeth in University City.

“We’ve been meeting more than ever before in the last few weeks as a result of this,” New Mount Sinai Cemetery Executive Director Daniel Brodsky said.

The joins statement from the cemeteries reads as follows:

“We, the Directors of the Jewish cemeteries of St. Louis, jointly condemn the recent acts of vandalism at cemeteries here in St. Louis and throughout the United States. We hope the perpetrators are found and brought to justice. We as a group are taking action to ensure that our cemeteries are secure and sacred grounds for all. We thank the entire St. Louis community and the global community as well for your concern, support and assistance in our efforts.”

The statement was printed in The Jewish Light and circulated on other platforms, Brodsky said.

The vandalism at Chesed Shel-Emeth included the toppling of nearly 200 headstones. University City Police continue to investigate but have said there is no clear evidence of a hate crime. The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $10,000 for an arrest and conviction.

Tucked in the heart of Affton, New Mount Sinai is the largest and oldest Jewish cemetery in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

“In the old days, late 1880s to the earliest part of the 20th century, everybody who was anybody in the Jewish community, and certainly the St. Louis community, was buried here,” Brodsky said.

Brodsky also serves as the chairman of the Jewish Cemetery Association North America.

He said there are talks underway to keep the seven Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis area safe and in good shape.

“Each of our cemeteries has a different footprint. And different surroundings, so each of us have separate needs,” Brodsky said. “But we are all working with one consultant who does a lot of security work.”

Brodsky said he was moved to see the outpouring of support locally and nationwide for Chesed Shel-Emeth. But he added that the vandalism signaled a sad moment for the community.

“I remember when you could go to a cemetery and feel that it was a sacred place.  And your relatives were resting peaceful. And now unfortunately that’s just not something you can assume anymore and that is sad,” he said.