UNIVERSITY CITY, MO – Plans are in the works to improve security at Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis area.
The move follows widespread vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in University City in February, when someone toppled more than 150 headstones at the historic Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on Olive Boulevard.
Officials with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis said that through a partnership with community volunteers and professionals, it was able to raise funds and support for upgrades.
Security has always been a topic within the community, but the incident at Chesed Shel Emeth made the issue more urgent, Daniel Brodsky said. Brodsky is the Executive Director of the New Mount Sinai Cemetery in Affton.
“This was the silver lining around the dark cloud,” said Brodsky, who is also the Chairman of the Jewish Cemetery Association of North America. “It’s a shame that it took something as terrible as this to prompt people in not just the Jewish community, but the St. Louis community and beyond stepped up to fund this effort.”
A security company consulted with the federation, determining the needs of each cemetery.
Fencing, lighting, and security cameras were among the items reviewed.
In all, close to $247,000 was collected through donors and an endowment.
University City police were unable to classify the incident at Chesed Shel Emeth as a hate crime.
No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
Chesed Shel Emeth Executive Director Anita Feigenbaum said the vandalism was a traumatic experience.
“When this happened, it affected everyone. It could be any cemetery,” she said. “It’s a place of heritage.”