By Cindy Mindell
HAMDEN – Jimmy Shure makes regular rounds of New Haven-area Jewish cemeteries, stopping at the graves of his own parents in the Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI) Memorial Park on Warner Street in Hamden.
The president and owner of the Robert E. Shure, Inc. Funeral Home in New Haven is quick to notice a problem among the graves, and on Labor Day, it wasn’t hard to miss the toppled headstones in the BEKI cemetery.
Shure contacted Andy Hodes, president of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Greater New Haven, who in turn called BEKI Cemetery Association chair Andy Weinstein. Hodes arrived at the cemetery first, counting between 25 and 30 tipped-over stones throughout several sections. He called the Hamden Police Department, whose officer, Derick Manning, found 30 disturbed grave markers, including an obelisk with extensive cracking and a loosened faceplate. There was no graffiti; the previous night’s rain had washed off any fingerprints.
“After a similar incident in West Hartford, the police said that because it’s a Jewish cemetery, you don’t necessarily need to have antisemitic graffiti for it to be considered an antisemitic act,” Hodes says. “So there was nothing overtly antisemitic about the vandalism, except for the fact that it happened in a Jewish cemetery just before the Jewish holidays.”
Weinstein worked with Nolan’s Hamden Monument Company to reset the stones by Tuesday. Weinstein recruited some of his staff from his business, Star Tire and Wheels, to help reset the headstones. “With our kever avot [pre-Rosh HaShanah graveside services] coming up, I had just spent a lot of extra money in landscaping to make the place look good,” he says. “So I was determined to make sure that it still did.”
Hodes discussed possible press statements with ADL Connecticut regional director Gary Jones, but decided to keep a low profile until the police had gathered more information. The next day, Hodes received a call from Det. Donald Remillard of the Hamden Police Department, who had been assigned to the case and increased patrols at all area cemeteries. The department sent out a media release in the hopes of encouraging witnesses. “They take the sanctity of cemeteries extremely seriously,” Hodes says.
Police estimates put the damage to the BEKI cemetery at $5,000, though Weinstein doesn’t have a final cost yet.
As the Ledger went to press, neither Hodes nor Weinstein had received news from the police.
Though he’s grateful for police involvement, Weinstein won’t be surprised if the perpetrators remain unidentified. “I think it was kids because there were a lot of stones turned over and it was very random. It looks as if they just pushed on every one and whatever fell, fell,” he says. “In my opinion, it’s a closed chapter: something happened, I fixed it, there’s nothing I can do to find the perpetrators, so I’ve moved on. But hopefully, the police will find out who did it.”
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