Valley News – Out and about: Saint-Gaudens historic park celebrates inclusion after anti-Semitic vandalism

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Valley News – Out and about: Saint-Gaudens historic park celebrates inclusion after anti-Semitic vandalism

Published: 13/08/2022 22:49:27

Modified: 13/08/2022 22:46:02

Last fall, an act of anti-Semitic vandalism at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park rocked the community.

This summer, that same community is coming together for a picnic, concert and art exhibit with the themes of “Community and Tolerance.”

From 14:00 to 15:30 on Sunday 21 August, community members can gather for free at Saint-Gaudens to hear the Kaleidoscopic Klezmer and jazz group Pneuma perform. At the same time, participants can create art on 8-by-8-inch squares representing community and tolerance that will then be woven together as part of a community quilt that will then be exhibited at Saint-Gaudens.

“I’m thrilled that the Park Service took this seriously and asked for community input and asked for community partnership,” said Paul Etkind, president of the Upper Valley Jewish Community. “I think a pretty wide net has been cast to try to draw attention to this.”

The idea arose in part from conversations National Park Service employees had with Cornwall resident Judith Kaufman.

“We had a conversation about repairing the torn fabric of our community in response to the vandalism that happened,” said Rainey McKenna, program manager at both Saint-Gaudens and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock. “It has really torn apart our community. You want to feel safe in your community.”

Kaufman told McKenna how Jewish people often literally restore fabric as part of the mourning process and suggested a community quilt.

“We will restore the fabric of our community by creating a quilt together,” McKenna said.

People can also submit quilt blocks before the concert by bringing them to Saint-Gaudens, located at 139 Saint Gaudens Road. Any media can be used to create an image, as long as it is on an 8×8 square of watercolor paper or cardboard. Part of the quilt will be put together before the concert and it will be finished afterwards.

“I think it’s a great idea. You have a lot of upbeat music and hopefully there will also be a lot of panels and a lot of people there,” said Etkind. “Both would be a statement of ‘No, this is not acceptable and we reject not only the actions, but the ideas behind the action. This is not acceptable here in America.’ “

The person, or people, who committed the vandalism have not yet been found and the investigation remains open.

“A more wonderful response would be if the perpetrators of this were caught and prosecuted. That being said, we are left to counter the thoughts and ideals and the hatred they espouse,” Etkind said. “We say this is not acceptable. This is not the America we know or want.”

Since the vandalism occurred, Saint-Gaudens staff have reached out to members of the Upper Valley’s Jewish community. During May, which is Jewish Heritage Month, Saint-Gaudens hosted an exhibition featuring Jewish sculptors, as well as Jewish members of the Cornish Art Colony. McKenna said she expects the partnerships to continue beyond this year.

Editor’s note: For more information, visit nps.gov/saga/index.htm.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3221.

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