Middle school students join cleanup effort at vandalized Jewish cemetery

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CREVE COEUR, MO (KPLR) - Vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in University is inspiring young people to take action.

A group of middle school students at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in Creve Coeur joined the cleanup effort Wednesday afternoon.

Lucas Bernstein, 14, said it is important for teens to stand up against acts of violence and bigotry.

“We’re the next generation. If we learn how to change and make a stand now, we can do it even better in the future,” he said.

“Something was wrong, and we need to stand up for what’s right.”

The school presented parents the option to allow children to volunteer at the cemetery. Dozens of students participated.

Max Lagoy, 13, said there is a lesson to be learned.

“That many people do care, about what happened in different communities,” he said.

Nearly 200 headstones were desecrated at the cemetery over the weekend. The University City Police Department reports no evidence of a hate crime, but stressed that the case is still under investigation.

Many of the students remarked at the size of the crowd gathering to help clean up the cemetery.

“That’s something you can’t teach in textbooks. You can’t teach the experience of walking into this cemetery and seeing thousands of people - Jewish, Christian, Muslim – all different shapes, sizes, and colors together standing against what this was,” Rabbi Scott Slarskey, Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School Director of Jewish Life said.

Support has been pouring in locally and even overseas. A letter from a 5th grade student in Israel was especially moving, Slarskey said.

The letter:

To the Jewish community of St. Louis,

We are the 5th grade students of Plagim School, the residents of Megiddo Regional Council, which is the twin city of St. Louis.

We want to share our sympathy and support with you after the horrifying and terrible vandalism acts at the historic Jewish Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery.

We share your sorrow, as there are Anti-Semitic incidents of vandalism also here in Israel.

We deeply hope that these things will never happen again!

We will be happy to help you with everything you will need. We are here for you in times of sorrow as well as in happy times.

Sending you warm hugs, strength and positive energy.

Best Regards,

Plagim's 5th Grade

Megiddo Regional Council