Lauretta Rudolph of Brookeville said her husband’s grandparents, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, settled in Missouri and raised a son who became the “bagel king of St. Louis.”
When they died, they were buried in Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery, the Jewish graveyard where vandals knocked over dozens of headstones last week. One of the damaged burial sites belonged to her husband’s relatives, she said.
“It was very painful. Very painful,” the former civics and government teacher said. “When you study history and you see history repeating itself, you just become so angry and hurt.”
Lauretta Rudolph of Brookeville, who had a personal connection to the attacks on a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, joined the rally on Wednesday. Credit: Bethany Rodgers
The experience provided Rudolph and her husband with a personal connection to the recent wave of anti-Semitic vandalism and threatening language that has swept the nation. So on Wednesday morning, she joined about 100 other people in Rockville to stand in solidarity with the local Jewish community and condemn acts of hate and bigotry.
The tagline for the 7:30 a.m. rally was “bagels not bombs,” a reference to the phone threat of explosives that the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville received this week. Sure enough, the group in the Randolph Hills Shopping Center parking lot divided their time between chatting about tolerance and noshing on bagels smeared with cream cheese.
Organizer Aviva Goldfarb and her friends pulled together the event in a single day by reaching out through social media, neighborhood listservs and word-of-mouth.
“It feels good to be able to come out and share this experience together and feel like human beings again,” she said.
Participants grabbed bagels and cream cheese to munch on during the parking lot rally. Credit: Bethany Rodgers
Crowd members included Kensington and North Chevy Chase residents who are working to form a group called Neighbors for Good, which will launch March 24 to oppose hate and engage in political activism. Goldfarb of Chevy Chase said she’s been an activist for many years, and this is the most energized she’s ever seen people about banding together to resist intolerance.
Recent acts of hate include the destruction of grave markers at cemeteries and bomb threats at more than 100 Jewish centers across the nation, including the one in Rockville. President Donald Trump decried the attacks on Tuesday night during an address to Congress.
However, Goldfarb faults Trump for contributing to the divisive climate that has emboldened people to express their prejudices.
“There is always evil lurking in any community, and the more important thing is that we are there to stand up and not tolerate it,” she said.
Chevy Chase resident Jared Solomon risked being late for his job in Washington, D.C., to join the rally. The damage at the Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was especially troubling to him, since his family is from the city. His mother’s maiden name—“Goldstein”—was even carved into one of the toppled headstones that he saw in news coverage of the crime.
“It could’ve been my grandmother’s headstone,” Solomon said.