New England Holocaust Memorial
The New England Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

City officials and those from the Jewish community came together Wednesday morning after the New England Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston was damaged.

“It was 6 in the morning that my wife came into our bedroom, she was shaking and crying. … She said, ‘They destroyed the memorial,'” said Israel Arbeiter, a Holocaust survivor who spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning.

The memorial features six glass towers, etched with the numbers tattooed on the arms of Jewish people who endured and were murdered in Nazi death camps.

Boston police arrested a Roxbury man in connection with the incident. James E. Isaac, 21, was arrested around 1:50 a.m. after a witness allegedly saw him damage the memorial by throwing a rock that shattered one of the glass panels.


Arbeiter’s number, which he rolled up his shirt sleeve to show on his forearm, was on that shattered panel, he said.

Isaac was arraigned Wednesday on charges of malicious destruction of property and willful damage to a church, synagogue or memorial in Boston Municipal Court. He was held on $750 cash bail for those charges, but he had his bail revoked in an unrelated assault and battery case that is currently pending in Chelsea District Court.

Isaac reportedy became involved in a verbal fight with a group of people on Union Street before 2 a.m. on Wednesday, officials said, because they did not tell Isacc the time when he asked. 

A witness then saw Isaac pick up an object and throw it at the memorial, shattering a glass panel. That witness contacted Boston police, who a short time later stopped Isaac after Isaac allegedly followed the group of people he previously had a conrontation with. Isaac was also wearing a GPS device at the time as part of his release for the Chelsea case, officials said. 

“As a city, we stand with the Jewish community. We stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, to say we support you,” Mayor Marty Walsh said at the gathering.

The six towers of the memorial represent the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust, the six years during which the Final Solution took place and the six main death camps where the majority of European Jews were murdered, an official said.

There are 132 panes of glass, including the one that was shattered Wednesday morning, on the memorial. The memorial is maintained by Combined Jewish Philanthropies in partnership with the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council.

There is 24-hour video surveillance of the memorial, and the council is sharing last night’s footage with the Boston Police Department.

“When we hear the sound of broken glass, we shudder. It’s a terrible reminder of terrible times,” said Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. “We were completely alone at that time, no one was there. Now here, we have the mayor, governor, the police department — God bless you all.”

There are duplicate panels in storage, Arbeiter said, made in anticipation of something happening to the memorial, so the site will be restored quickly.

“We will rebuild,” Shrage said. “We’re not going anywhere. Resilience is what makes us Jewish people, the city of Boston and the American people truly great.”

Isaac is due back in Boston Municipal Court on July 18.



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