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Boston Holocaust memorial vandalized for second time this summer

BOSTON (JTA) – A pane of glass was shattered Monday evening at the New England Holocaust Memorial, the second time in less than two months the memorial was vandalized.

A young man, 17, is in custody for the alleged vandalism, a spokesman with the Boston Police Department told JTA. Two passersby tackled the alleged suspect and held him until police arrived, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that the police are investigating whether this was a hate crime.

The New England Holocaust Memorial

A visitor to the memorial, located along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail, told the Boston Globe he heard the sound of glass shattering as he was reading panels at the memorial and later saw police make an arrest.

“It’s a reminder that we as a community need to be united, both in our opposition to all forms of hate but also in the important role that memorials play in our community,” Robert Trestan told the Globe.

Trestan, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was a second blow to the community. “It comes at a time when most of Boston is standing in solidarity [against] the hatred that we saw in Charlottesville over the weekend,” he said.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston published a statement from its parent group and Combined Jewish Philanthropies linking the vandalism to the deadly violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this week.

“We are appalled and saddened that the New England Holocaust Memorial was vandalized Monday night for the second time in just six weeks. The images of Nazis marching in the streets of America over the weekend in Charlottesville and now shattered glass once again at this sacred space in Boston are an affront to our Jewish community and to all those who stand-up against bigotry, hatred and antisemitism,” the statement said.

Likewise, a statement released by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also drew a connection between the vandalism at the Boston memorial and the events in Charlottesville. “Vandalizing a Holocaust memorial is always an outrageous act but in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, this should serve as another urgent warning that antisemitism and racism remain dangerous forces in society,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “We call on all American citizens and leaders to confront hate and promote American values of freedom and human dignity.”

In a post on Twitter, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Boston stands up against hate. “I’m saddened to see such a despicable action in this great city.”

The 22-year-old memorial was recently repaired and rededicated following the earlier vandalism in which one pane of glass was shattered, the first time it was struck by vandalism, allegedly by a 21-year-old man with a history of mental illness.  The six-towered memorial, designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz, features 132 panels of glass etched with 7-digit numbers symbolizing the numbers tattooed on the arms of Jews during the Holocaust.

Speaking at the July 11 rededication, Israel Arbeiter, a prominent 92-year-old Boston-area Holocaust survivor, said the public ceremony brought a sense of renewal.

“The horrible suffering that we, the survivors, endured in concentration camps cannot be forgotten,” Arbeiter said. “When we repeatedly say ‘remember,’ we turn first of all to the world around us,” Arbeiter said at the ceremony, attended by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, as well as leaders of the Jewish community and other faith and civic groups.

CAP: Shattered glass surrounds one of the six towers of the vandalized New England Holocaust Memorial.

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