BOSTON (AP) — A Holocaust memorial that was vandalized and later repaired was rededicated Tuesday by city and state officials, religious leaders and survivors of Nazi death camps.
A 9-foot-tall (3-meter-tall) panel on one of the six glass towers that comprise the New England Holocaust Memorial was shattered last month by a thrown rock, an act that drew swift condemnation and an immediate promise to fully restore it.
A young man, James Isaac, was arrested shortly after the vandalism and pleaded not guilty to malicious destruction of personal property and destruction of a place of memorial. Authorities have not said if they believe anti-Semitism was the motive. Isaac’s court-appointed lawyer has said he suffers from mental health issues.
The glass towers are lit internally and are etched with millions of numbers, which represent tattoos on the arms of Jews who died in the camps.
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Holocaust survivors Steve Ross, who founded the memorial in 1995, and Israel Arbeiter joined Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh in removing the cover from the newly installed replacement panel at the conclusion of Tuesday’s rededication ceremony.
Arbeiter was a teenager in Poland when he was separated from his parents and younger brother and was forced into labor in several concentration camps over six years. The rest of his family was killed.
Ross and other creators of the memorial thought it inevitable that it would become a target for vandals, so much so that extra panels were built and kept in storage, said Ross’ son, former city Councilor Michael Ross.
“Even if this particular act was not motivated by bigotry, and even considering it took 22 years, which is quite remarkable, for it to occur, this is no cause for us to celebrate or be optimistic,” said the younger Ross, who noted the recent uptick in reported acts of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes around the country.
Guests were told the ceremony coincided with a Jewish fast day that marks the beginning of a three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.
Baker noted the memorial stands near Boston’s Freedom Trail, 2.5-mile-long path passing by several sites with U.S. historical significance, and helps signify that freedom of religion is among the liberties Americans hold dear.
“It’s very important to remember what this memorial stands for, who it represents and the horrific events that it speaks to, events we should always remember and never forget,” Baker said.
Walsh said the city’s response to the vandalism helped bring awareness to the presence of the memorial in the heart of downtown Boston.
“I think there is a whole generation of young Bostonians who don’t know how the memorial ended up here, how this sacred ground got here,” he said.
Associated Press writer Crystal Hill contributed to this report.