Jewish, Interfaith Community Leaders Support Rebuilding Effort
The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, the Association of Jewish Cemeteries, and community leaders gathered Wednesday morning, June 29, to rededicate Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery, which was vandalized over the winter and repaired through a remarkable joint effort of the Jewish, interfaith and local communities.
In January 2016, 20 headstones were tipped over at the cemetery, which is located within Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood. During the same week, 15 headstones were damaged at the Congregation Ados Israel cemetery, also within Zion Hill Cemetery.
“Dreyfus Lodge was a Jewish fraternal organization overseen by the Independent Order B’rith Shalom - whose name means ‘Covenant of Peace,’” noted Howard Sovronsky, Federation President and CEO. “Members met twice a month in locations all over Hartford, including Central Row and Main and Pleasant Streets. The individuals whose headstones were compromised were real people with real stories and ties to this Jewish community.”
Stones at the Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery – administered by the Association of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Hartford, which is part of the Federation – were repaired in an inspiring show of support from a variety of sources including the Association, the Federation, the Hartford Police Italian Officers Association, the First Congregational Church of East Hartford, and individual contributors. Congregation Ados Israel’s cemetery is owned by the congregation.
The Zion Hill cemetery has been the repeated target of vandalism over the years; other incidents took place in 1967, 1985, 1990, 2000 and 2005. And in 2012, another Hartford Jewish cemetery – Tower Avenue Cemetery – was vandalized.
The Dreyfus Lodge Cemetery rededication was an opportunity to remember the forebears of the Greater Hartford Jewish community and to demonstrate that they have not been forgotten.
Rabbi Philip Lazowski, Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Hillel Synagogue in Bloomfield and a Holocaust survivor, led the ceremony. Other speakers included Henry Zachs, Vice Chair of the Association of Jewish Cemeteries; Eric Zachs, Chair of the Federation Board of Directors; Howard Sovronsky, Federation President and CEO; Deputy Chief Brian Foley of the Hartford Police Department; Lt. Paul Cicero of the Hartford Police Italian Officers Association; and Pastor Kelly Jane Forbush of the First Congregational Church of East Hartford.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, attendees placed a small stone on each grave – an ancient Jewish custom that shows the grave has been visited. Commemorating a burial and the deceased is considered a mitzvah, or commandment, in Judaism.