Message to cemetery vandals: 'I will help you bury your hate'

Jewish cemetery vandalized, JCCs threatened
Jewish cemetery vandalized, JCCs threatened

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Jewish cemetery vandalized, JCCs threatened 01:16

Story highlights

  • Vandals toppled more than 170 gravestones in Jewish cemetery
  • Woman who's loved ones are buried there says she wants to forgive them

(CNN)Donna Warwick wants the vandal, or vandals, who pushed over more than 170 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery over the weekend to know one thing.

She will forgive them.
Warwick, in an open letter on Facebook, urged whoever is responsible for the damage at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, to come forward.
    "It is never too late to say you are sorry. I will wait for that day," she wrote.
    Her great-grandparents are buried in the Missouri cemetery, along with friends and members of her extended family. Warwick told CNN her 90-year-old mother visits that and other Jewish cemeteries regularly.
    "When she goes, she puts a rock, or a small stone on the grave before she leaves. She says prayers while she is there and she talks to the ancestors and tells them the good news and the bad," Warwick said. "My mother gets great comfort from this and she always felt that these cemeteries were secure places where she was welcome to continue her relationship with those she loved."
    Warwick said Evelyn Lieberman, her mother, experienced anti-Semitism in the past and knew people who had survived the Holocaust. "But she had thought those terrible times were over."
    In her letter, Warwick described how great-grandparents Joseph and Rebecca Kappico, known to the family as Zeda and Baba, came to St. Louis seeking a better life.
    "In the early 1900's my brave Zeda fled from the Czar and came to the USA. But, as it was too dangerous then for him to get his three young daughters past the guards and the barbed wire barriers, he left them in Russia where they would be safe in the care their grandmother, she wrote. "Years later, when he finally reunited with them in America it was a little sad as at first the girls did not recognize him."
    He worked as a junk peddler to support his family and three of his daughters had to work in sweatshops to make ends meet.
    Warwick wrote that despite their struggles, her great-grandparents had long, happy, lives -- Zeda lived to be 92 and Baba was 100.
    She wrote from her heart. By the time she finished, Warwick had reached a place of forgiveness.

    You could not destroy their blessed souls

    Warwick told the vandals that if they were trying to disturb their eternal rest, they failed.
    "You could not destroy their blessed souls and you could not topple their legacy of goodness or for that matter, the goodness of anyone who is buried there. All you could do was something you will someday regret," she wrote.
    She'll be there when that day comes.
    "I want you to know something. Whenever you do find it in your heart to feel the regret, I will whole heartedly [sic] forgive you. For I know that is what my grandmother would want me to do," she wrote. "So, please come forward and I will help you bury your hate and lead a life that would better honor your own parents, your own grandparents and your own great grandparents who may have struggled and worked hard to try to make a better life for you too."
    Ron Glazer went to the Chesed Shel Emeth Society to see if his parents' and grandparents' graves had been vandalized.
    Warwick says her cousin was able to visit the cemetery and saw that her Zeda and Baba's gravestones appeared to be undisturbed. She's not sure about other relatives' graves.
    The Chesed Shel Emeth Society is making repairs and has released a list of blocks in the cemetery that were affected. They asked people, who's loved ones are buried in those blocks to call for more information.
    Police aren't saying whether the cemetery vandalism is considered a hate crime.