On the Desecration of Chesed Shel Emeth: A Personal Response

One place in this world exists where my parents' families merge, aside from the blood of my parents' offspring, and that's Chesed Shel Emeth, the Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis that was vandalized this weekend.

My paternal family's business sits across the street: the Rosenbloom Monument Company, which specializes in Jewish gravestones and which made not only the gravestones of my father's relatives in Chesed Shel Emeth but also of my mother's relatives. Both sides of my family found refuge in St. Louis as new immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and both sides buried their dead there, in this cemetery, which is the most sacred place I know. I have laid many a stone down at the sites of those I knew and loved as well as at the sites of those I'd never met--the older generations, the immigrants who survived pogroms and hate crimes abroad, and hate crimes here, who deeply struggled and, in a few lucky cases, eventually thrived.

This personal grief taps the same wound opened after the vandalism of mosques, the swastikas found in subway cars, the turning away of refugees, the rounding up of immigrants. And that list barely scratches the surface. Too much.

 

Darla Himeles, a Philadelphia-based poet, translator, and essayist, can be read in recent issues of Women’s Review of BooksBayou MagazineBedfellows, New Ohio Review, and Pittsburgh Poetry Review. She is a doctoral student in English at Temple University.