Thursday, August 2, 2007

Heartbreaking becomes heartwarming

This is a story of good people. Lots of them.

The readers of this news and opinion (mostly opinion) space will remember when some people turned some cemeteries, sad places in the best of times, even sadder.

Late last April, some people turned over dozens of tombstones and scrawled a swastika on some Jewish cemeteries in East Haven. The vandals were never caught.

The event was enough to turn the blood cold for anyone with a soul.

There are, however, many, many people with souls out there and dozens of them reacted to this sad situation in ways that warmed my heart, and the hearts of all those involved in the restoration of the damage.

The local media, the New Haven Register, as well as the affiliates of all three networks, Channel 3, Channel 8 and Channel 30 as well as Channel 61 did stories about the vandalism. That brought in a flood of concern, and a flood of dollars, from all across this nation. That more than covered the cost of fixing the damaged tombstones.

East Haven Police Chief Leonard L. Gallo immediately assigned increased patrols to the area. With the help of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, the synagogues involved, as well as Gallo, a working group began brainstorming ways to prevent a recurrence.

Jimmy Shure, owner of the Robert E. Shure Funeral Home has stepped forward to underwrite new signs for the cemetery. The United Illuminating Co. is installing lighting to forestall further vandalism and Shure has pledged to cover the electric bill for that.

Mark Shiffrin, a local attorney and former commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection has played a major role in this effort, as have Lisa Stanger and Fran Parness of the Jewish Foundation.

Cong. Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim of New Haven suffered the most damage last April, although the swastika was scrawled on the Westville Synagogue's entryway.

Rabbi David Avigdor and Goldie Goldberg, synagogue administrator, took the lead, along with Parness, in making themselves available to the news media.

Spreading the word allowed people to express their concern and revulsion with the vandalism.

"This outpouring of concern and of dollars has turned a sad situation into one that makes you feel good about your fellow man," Avigdor said.

Avigdor and Goldberg want to thank all who have reacted so positively to this sad situation and who have stepped up to see that it never happens again.

Editor's Note: The writer is president of Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim synagogue in New Haven and is a member of the committees cited in this piece.

Until next time....

1 comment:

Mike Olkin said...

A rash of vandalism just occured 50 miles north in West Springfield, MA. Here's the story: