By Judie Jacobson
HARTFORD–On Sunday, several members of different faith communities came together at the Ateres Knesseth Israel Cemetery in Hartford to help raise up and repair 60 headstones that were knocked over and either damaged or destroyed sometime over the course of the previous week.
According to Hartford police, the act of vandalism was called in to the precinct on Friday afternoon by a woman who had discovered the devastation that day when she visited the cemetery. She noted to police that the cemetery located near Garden and Oats Streets in the city’s Zion Hill section had not been touched when she visited the previous Monday.
The absence of of antisemitic graffiti have led police to conclude that it is unlikely the act is a hate crime, though the investigation is ongoing.
A suspect or suspects have not been identified. There are no cameras located near the cemetery.
“It appears to be a random desecration, a cowardly act of vandalism,” Howard Sovronsky, head of the Greater Hartford Jewish Federation, told the Hartford Courant Friday afternoon.
The Association of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Hartford, the arm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, is responsible for the maintenance and management of 28 Jewish cemeteries associated with now-defunct synagogues and Jewish organizations.
Most of the 60 gravestones reportedly can be reset on their bases, but at least two were shattered. The cemetery is among the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the Greater Hartford areas.
It isn’t the first time Hartford’s Jewish cemeteries have been targeted by vandals.
One of the earliest recorded incidents of vandalism to the city’s Jewish cemeteries happened in 1967. Vandals struck again in 1985, 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2016.
In January 2016, after discovering 35 headstones tipped over at the Dreyfus Lodge and Congregation Adas Israel burial areas located in Hartford’ Zion Hill — an act the police did label a “hate crime” — Leonard Holtz, president of Ados Israel, sounded disheartened.
“Mourners used to have the freedom to come and pay their respects with peace of mind,” he told the Ledger at the time. “Now, security is a long-term problem.”
Caption: One of 60 headstones found toppled at Ateres Knesseth Israel Cemetery in Hartford. (Courtesy Hartford Police Department)