R.I. House passes resolution condemning Hebrew Cemetery desecration


On March 28, I was a guest of my cousin, R.I. Rep. Rebecca Kislak, who I met for the first time, at the Rhode Island State House.

The House unanimously passed a resolution condemning the anti-Semitic desecration of the Hebrew Cemetery in Fall River. Fifty-nine headstones were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti or toppled during the night of March 16.

The resolution was proposed by three Jewish representatives, Jason Knight, Rebecca Kislak and Mia Ackerman, along with House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi and House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi.

Attacks against people because of who they are have become more frequent. Kislak referred to the desecration in Fall River when she spoke to the House on March 20 about a resolution decrying the murder of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

When Knight suggested a resolution about the Hebrew Cemetery, Kislak didn’t know that stones of her Pokross family were among those defaced. Knight introduced the resolution, saying, “I am rising today reluctantly on a very serious topic, for an issue that affects the entire Jewish community of Rhode Island and southeastern New England, and really, all of us. … I could talk all day about how hurtful this is.’’

Kislak introduced two visitors, “Many Jewish families have connections to the Fall River Jewish community, including me. I would like to introduce two people whose families headstones were graffitied at the Jewish Cemetery in Fall River, first [retired Providence Journal reporter] Charlie Bakst of Providence, who many of us know and whose family has members buried at the Jewish cemetery in Fall River, including folks whose gravestones were affected, and my cousin Aaron Ginsburg, visiting from nearby Massachusetts.

“Aaron grew up in Newport. Our family in common, the Pokrosses, had several headstones affected by the anti-Semitic graffiti… I am glad to be standing together with all of us against hatred and anti-Semitism.”

The House welcomed us with a standing ovation.

The resolution said, in part, “This anti-Semitic malevolent attack was not only an affront on the memories of the families of those buried at the cemetery, but was a hate crime perpetrated against all Jewish people, and an assault to humanity; and

“WHEREAS, Anti-Semitism in any form breeds violence and is eminently sad, disrespectful, and unconditionally condemnable; now, therefore be it

“RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby honors the memory of those at the Hebrew Cemetery and stands united in rejecting and condemning these vile and intolerable acts of anti-Semitism and hatred…”

Complete text of resolution is at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText19/HouseText19/H5927.pdf

Video from the session, courtesy of the House, is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO6W8gpza1E

Rhode Island, legislature, Hebrew Cemetery, anti-Semitism