Boston Globe: Milton gathers for vigil at damaged Holocaust memorial

Milton gathers for vigil at damaged Holocaust memorial

By Felicia Gans | Globe Correspondent | September 23, 2016

Photo: Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff. Sandy Downes, (center left) and her granddaughter, Abby Files, 14, of Milton, took part in a prayer during an interfaith vigil at the Holocaust Memorial in Milton Cemetery.

Sandy Downes, (center left) and her granddaughter, Abby Files, 14, of Milton, took part in a prayer during an interfaith vigil at the Holocaust Memorial in Milton Cemetery. Photo: Craig F. Walker, Globe Staff

MILTON — Six yellow remembrance candles flickered atop a Holocaust memorial sculpture for a child where two bronze Stars of David were stolen from its marble base earlier this week.

Community members gathered at Myriam’s Memorial at Milton Cemetery Thursday night to denounce the vandalism and pray for healing over an atrocious act that has deeply affected the community.

“This shouldn’t be about what the dumb act is that someone did. It has to be about the reaction from the community,” said Karen Friedman-­Hanna, president of Congregation Beth Shalom of the Blue Hills in Milton, who lit one of the candles.

The vigil, held just before nightfall, drew more than 100 members of the community, including young children who placed white and yellow flowers around the memorial, restoring beauty to the bare marble.

Waltham artist Fred Manasse created the sculpture in memory of his sister, Myriam, one of 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust. It was installed in the summer of 2014.

Myriam's Memorial

Memorial sculpture for child Holocaust victim damaged at Milton cemetery. Someone stole two Stars of David from Myriam’s Memorial, which Fred Manasse created to honor his sister.

Manasse, who is 81, did not attend the vigil, but sent a statement that was read
aloud by Milton School Superintendent Mary Gormley.

“The vigil tonight is just the beginning in sounding an alarm about the racial and religious bigotry that can so hurt this nation,” he wrote.

At first, Manasse felt “angry at the desecration,” and that he considers the act a hate crime, he wrote.

But, with reflection, he also hopes the vandalism can serve a higher purpose, to remind people about the danger of anti­-Semitism, he wrote.

Milton Police Chief John King said the incident is still under investigation, and he assured the community that recovering the bronze stars is a priority.

Police have searched the cemetery grounds, its pond, and nearby woods. They have also viewed footage from security cameras in the area. There are no cameras inside the town-­owned cemetery, he said.

The vigil, planned by the Milton Interfaith Clergy Association and town officials, included prayers offered by Christian and Jewish leaders.

The Rev. John Allen, minister of the First Congregational Church of Milton­-United Church of Christ, said the vigil was a rededication, a chance to remember all children who have been the innocent victims of violence.

“We dedicate this monument once again, to be a reminder of the capacity of human violence and a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit,” he said.

Rabbi Alfred Benjamin of Congregation Beth Shalom delivered a memorial prayer, both in Hebrew and English.

After the vigil, Benjamin said he is proud of Milton and was heartened by the number of families who took time to attend.

The best thing parents can do, he said, is to teach children about heinous crimes of the past, and to honor the victims, “l’dor v’dor,” Hebrew for “from generation to generation.”

“It’s not like you can teach one generation and say ‘OK, we’re done,’ ” he said. “Education is ongoing.”

Felicia Gans can be reached at Follow her on Twitter@FeliciaGans.

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