Standing Up for Our Heritage

Yesterday morning, members and friends of the Jewish community gathered at Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood, with a sacred purpose. In a ceremony led by Rabbi Philip Lazowski, Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Hillel Synagogue in Bloomfield, we gathered to honor the memories of the departed and to rededicate the headstones that mark their presence following a vicious attack by vandals in January of this year.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Deputy Chief Brian Foley of the Hartford Police Department had no qualms about labeling this incident a hate crime. This cemetery has been specifically targeted by vandals for many years: in 1967, 1985, 1990, 2000, and 2005 in addition to the January attack.

Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery is not the only Jewish cemetery to be targeted. In 2012, Tower Avenue Cemetery, in Hartford's North End, was vandalized. During the same week this past January, the Congregation Ados Israel Cemetery -­ adjacent to Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery -­ was vandalized. And we observed fresh damage to headstones yesterday.

It might be tempting to shrug our shoulders and stay silent. But we are a proud people ­ and our heritage and values demand better.

By rededicating the Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery, we are standing up for our heritage. The individuals whose headstones were compromised ­ more than 20 in all ­ were real people with real stories and ties to this Jewish community. In life, they gathered for meetings of the Dreyfus Lodge fraternal order in locations all over Hartford, including Central Row and Main and Pleasant Streets. Some of their descendants are our friends and neighbors.

We are also standing up for our values. We refuse to remain complacent in the face of hatred. We have a sacred responsibility to our fellow Jews in both life and death. This is why we form Chevrot Kadisha to prepare the dead for burial, why we say Kaddish, why we light Yahrzeit candles and why we visit the graves of our forebears, leaving stones to mark our presence.

Jews are not alone in embracing the value of communal responsibility ­ and the Federation is grateful to our friends in the larger community who stepped forward with contributions to help repair the broken headstones, including the Hartford Police Italian Officers Association, The First Congregational Church of East Hartford, Congregation B'nai Shalom Cemetery Association of Newington and many local individual donors and families.

We are especially proud to administer the Association of Jewish Cemeteries, which cares for Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery and 27 others, mostly in Hartford, whose founding organizations have long since dissolved. The Association provides these holy resting places with the maintenance and respect they deserve and helps families of the departed create meaningful memorials. Your contributions to the Federation's Annual Campaign help to support the Association's sacred work.

I hope you'll read and share this Hartford Courant article on the Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery rededication.

Shabbat Shalom.


Howard Sovronsky
President & CEO


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