SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 – BOSTON – As construction cranes prepare to repair the New England Holocaust Memorial, which was vandalized twice this summer, law enforcement agencies are proceeding with three separate criminal cases involving destruction of the memorial. Investigators are also weighing whether the incidents constitute hate crimes, which are civil rights violations, according to Jake Wark, press secretary to Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
James Isaac, who allegedly threw a large rock through one of the memorial’s glass panels, was arraigned in the first incident on June 28. He was charged with malicious destruction of property and causing more than $5,000 in damage to a place of worship, which includes buildings used to memorialize the dead. Issac was expected back in court this week. The 21-year-old is being held in Suffolk County jail, said Wark.
A 17-year-old juvenile from Malden, who allegedly smashed a pane at the memorial in a second incident on Aug. 14, was arrested and arraigned last month on charges of malicious destruction of property over $250, and causing injury over $5,000 to a church, synagogue or memorial. He has since been released back to his family and he was ordered by Suffolk County Juvenile Court Judge Terry Craven to comply with mental health treatment, and released to his family, according to Wark. His next juvenile court date is slated for Oct. 10.
In a separate case, as a crew was cleaning the broken glass at the memorial on the morning of Aug. 15, a man was seen damaging the plantings at the site, Wark said. Said Bouzit was later arrested and arraigned that day for vandalizing plantings at the memorial. Bouzit, who listed his residence as a mental health facility, is being held at Suffolk County Jail.
The three cases appear to be unrelated, Wark told the Journal. He also said that these local incidents do not seem to be connected with broader white supremacist or anti-Semitic groups.
“Regardless of the offenders’ motivations, we take crimes like these very seriously,” Wark said. “It’s not a car window. The Holocaust memorial is a place that holds a great deal of importance to the Jewish community in Boston and across the country. We will seek disposition that bears in mind the community’s emotional investment in the New England Memorial,” he said.
Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s New England office, believes it is critical that the Boston Police Department and the District Attorney’s office conduct a thorough investigation and treat it as an alleged hate crime. “They are the only ones who can review the evidence and determine the appropriate charges,” Trestan told the Journal.
“We have faith that they will make those determinations,” he said.
Trestan echoed Wark’s assessment that these incidents are most likely isolated, especially since there were no others for over two decades.
Nonetheless, he said it’s essential that the the memorial be open 24/7 and accessible to anyone. It’s part of the city. It’s for everyone,” Trestan said.
“The investigation and the prosecution send an important message to the community that this memorial needs to be respected. If people vandalize or damage it, there will be repercussions.”
On a recent day, a small bouquet of flowers and a framed message that read “These lives matter,” inscribed inside a hand-drawn heart, sat at the base of a missing pane of glass in one of the towers at the memorial, one month after the pane was shattered.
The pane that was broken was the exterior glass of the bottom panel of one of the six 54-foot high towers that make up the memorial, designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz. The exterior panels contain millions of etched numbers representing the numbers tattooed on the arms of Jews during the Holocaust. The tower vandalized in the most recent incident is the northern-most tower that borders Hanover Street.
It was the second time this summer one of the panes was vandalized, the first incident since the memorial was established more than two decades ago. The sidewalk along one side of the memorial is currently under construction.
No rededication ceremony will be held, as was done following the repair of the first act of vandalism, in late June, according to Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, which oversees programming for the memorial.
The JCRC and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston will issue a community announcement this week when the repair is complete, Burton told the Journal.
The statement will include plans for a large community-wide Yom HaShoah commemoration at the memorial in the coming year. It will mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, the name used to describe a wave of anti-Jewish pogroms in 1938 in Nazi-era Germany and other German-occupied states, Burton said.