Dozens Gather to Rededicate Jewish Cemetery


UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. — Dozens of people gathered in University City, Missouri for a rededication ceremony marking the recovery of a Jewish cemetery that was desecrated in February.

More than 150 damaged headstones had to be repaired or replaced and the vandals were never caught.

“This was a terrible, horrific bullying of dead people like the worst of worst that you can imagine,” Tarek El-Messidi, with Celebrate Mercy, said.

Chesed Shel Emeth, the historic Jewish cemetery in University City made international headlines in February after vandals knocked over the graves.

The investigation continues into whether or not the vandalism at a Jewish cemetery was a hate crime.

“Many of them had broken irreparably, some were decades over a century old. And the reaction is sort of a slow kind of take when you realize what is unfolding before you,” Andrew  Rehfeld, with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, said.

Hundreds of volunteers in the community gathered to help with the clean up following the vandalism.

Including Vice President Mike Pence, who made a very special visit to the cemetery.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens invited Pence to help with repairs.

Most of the headstones were fixed within days.

The sanctuary was restored, as the world watched.

“Within 48 hours not only was our community mobilized out of concern and wanting to repair what had been damaged, but the word had reached international proportions,” Rehfeld said.

Sunday, dozens gathered for the rededication ceremony to honor the memory of those buried at the cemetery and acknowledge the community support.

“When a desecration comes about, you want to rededicate the stone. And it’s a way of preserving the memory and recognizing that we are the only ones to protect really what is a defenseless memory of those who have departed,” Rehfeld said.

“To thank our community and the community at large for all the support that they gave us and to give closure,” Anita Feigenbaum, with Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, said.

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