Normally, I would pass over these kinds of headlines, which are occurring more frequently, until I recognized that this one happened in a Jewish cemetery not far from where my own family were laid to rest. It struck me that when 30 Jewish headstones are knocked over and desecrated with “Expel the Jews,” “Heil Hitler” and “This is Maga Country,” it should hurt, and now it does.
When Lewis Brooks came to the Jewish cemetery to visit one of his relatives and realized that their grave had been defiled, he was devastated. “My great-aunt used to take me here, she’s over there with her family,” Brooks told the Boston Globe, pointing to an area of the cemetery. “It has a lot of memories.”
Brooks understood that these attackers are trying to erase the memory of our people. They want to destroy any remembrance of our families who came to America to escape the hatred. This is an attempt to remove a memorial to our mothers and fathers, who worked hard to provide for their families and built a community, a town, and a place where children could walk to school without fear, a neighborhood where we could play outside after the sun went down and felt protected.
When these people try to wipe out the memory of Boston’s Jewish community, they are attacking the very best of what our families, yours and mine, worked so hard to build. My grandfather, may he rest in peace, owned and operated a children’s clothing store in East Boston to provide for his family until the day he died. He was loved dearly by his Italian and Irish neighbors, for whom he saved his best Easter dresses and Confirmation shoes. It was only after he passed that we learned how he had generously given charity to many of the poorer families from the neighborhood.
I know that if these Catholic and Christian neighbors heard that our grandfather Isador Levinson’s grave was desecrated with antisemitic hate slogans, they would come weeping to his shop to comfort our family. But alas, they too are asleep in their graves, their memories visited regularly by grateful grandchildren and great grandchildren who owe their lives to the hard work and community-building of their forefathers and mothers.
And how will I now visit my grandfather’s grave? Can I wash this hatred away with a brush and turpentine? Should I dry my eyes, walk away and forget about it? I will never forget Papa’s smile and his quiet patience as times changed and people just didn’t seem to care anymore about the neighborhood. The memory of his hard work and devotion to make sure our family and those around us had a safe and blessed life cannot be erased.
But a community, town or even a nation can forget. And that is what will happen if we choose to remain silent in the face of these growing acts of hatred, bigotry and violence all around us. Dear friends, our only appropriate response to this present evil now coming upon us is for you and I, Jew and Gentile, to stand together and make our voices heard loud and clear that we will not allow these acts to become part of our communities. It is not enough to wait for the police or government to do something about this. Let this incident be a reminder to us all that only together can we fight hatred. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to protect one another. Please do not forget.
PHOTO: Illustration. (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)