A photographer shoots photos of shattered glass at Boston’s Holocaust Memorial. Photo: Nina Taylor-Dunn

By Nina Taylor-Dunn

Boston’s swift response to the recent vandalism of the Holocaust Memorial has been a testament to tolerance and inclusion.

“As a city, we stand with the Jewish community,” Mayor Marty Walsh said at a press conference Wednesday morning with law enforcement officials and Jewish leaders at the memorial. “We stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, to say we support you.”

Earlier Wednesday morning, the Boston Police Department received an emergency call about the destruction of the New England Holocaust Memorial said Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross. The perpetrator had broken a nine-foot panel of glass on one of the six 54-foot towers. James Isaac of Roxbury was arrested for the crime of destruction of a memorial and willful and malicious destruction of public property, Gross said.

First dedicated in 1995, the Memorial was funded by Stephen Ross and Israel Arbeiter, survivors of the Holocaust who emigrated to Boston in the late 1940s. A reminder of the six million Jewish people who were killed by the Nazis, the glass towers are etched with numbers representing the tattoos on the arms of those who were forced into camps.

“This is part of our families. We meet here every year, the Holocaust survivors, to remember why this Memorial is here,” said Arbeiter, president of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Boston. He later showed a tattoo on his left arm from his time in the concentration camps.

According to Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philosophies, backup glass panels have been ready since the Memorial’s construction, and it is not expected to take long to replace the broken one.

The Memorial, while a reminder, is also an important art structure.

Recognizing the power of art, especially pieces dedicated to a painful history, Walsh’s Department of Arts and Culture aims to bring art to all areas of Boston and make it accessible in every community. The department funds programs such as Boston Creates, Percent for Art, and the Opportunity Fund.

“Art is one of the things we have that makes us human,” said Julia Ryan, Artist Resource Manager of the Arts and Culture Department. “Public art is a tool to bring people together and have more dialogues about challenging subjects, which I think we need to do.”

With tragic events such as the vandalism of the memorial, people seem willing to come together to show support and concern.

“I think it speaks volumes about what happens when these things happen,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said, “We all come together in these horrible times to speak out against this sort of thing.”

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