Headstones at vandalized Jewish cemetery replaced

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. - A Jewish cemetery in University City targeted by vandals in February was made whole again on Thursday.

Thirteen tipped over headstones that could not be repaired were replaced. The stones were cut in Georgia.

It was a close to $50,000 job, Phil Weiss of Rosenblum Monuments said.

A number of the stones featured “raised” lettering instead of engraving. It was a painstaking process getting them all just right.

Once set in place, they seemed to be stand for even more now than the originals.

“There’s a sense of closure to this, like we can move forward,” said Anita Feigenbaum, Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery Executive Director. “Although we won’t be able to see them (the deceased) or touch them, we still have their memories and we still have them with us.”

The wraps came off Solomon Bernstein’s new headstone, replacing the weathered stone that stood for 90 years until vandals broke or toppled it and more than 150 others.

It happened around the same time bomb threats against Jewish centers were being phoned in nationwide.

A massive show of support followed. Hundreds of volunteers from all faiths helped in a cemetery cleanup effort, led by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens; Vice President Mike Pence showed up, too.

Donations now total close to a half-million dollars, with a large portion coming from Muslim charities, Feigenbaum said.

The response has overshadowed the crime, by far.

There’s been no arrest and yet there seems to be a quiet justice in the replacement of the broken stones, making a stand where hate could not.

“To see it through, for what happened five months ago, we’re trying to wrap this up and have all the families be relieved that the damage that was done is nowhere to be seen right now,” Weiss said.

“We have many more things in common than we have differences. When it comes down to it and the chips are down, we stand together, and we pull together,” said Feigenbaum.

There's still a $10,000 reward in the case. The rest of the donated money will go for security upgrades at nine area Jewish cemeteries, Feigenbaum said.

The upgrades will include fencing, signage, and surveillance cameras. Installation will start this month. There's a re-dedication ceremony at Chesed Shel Emeth has been scheduled for Sunday, August 6.