Out & About: Saint-Gaudens historical park celebrates inclusion after antisemitic vandalism

  • A portion of The Temple monument at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park in Cornish is covered by a tarp last October after it was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti. The park will hold a picnic, concert and art display with the themes of “Community and Tolerance” next Sunday. Alex Driehaus / Valley News

Valley News
Published: 8/15/2022 5:19:15 PM
Modified: 8/15/2022 5:15:47 PM

Last fall, an act of antisemitic vandalism at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park left the community reeling.

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

From 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21, community members can gather at Saint-Gaudens for free to hear the Kaleidoscopic Klezmer and jazz group Pneuma perform. At the same time, attendees 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 has taken this seriously and that they’ve asked for community input and they’ve asked for community partnership,” said Paul Etkind, president of the Upper Valley Jewish Community. “I think a fairly broad net has been cast to try to attract attention to this.”

The idea sprang, in part, from conversations National Park Service employees had with Cornish resident Judith Kaufman.

“We were having 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 really tore into our community. You want to feel safe in your community.”

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

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

People can also submit quilt squares prior to the concert by bringing them to Saint-Gaudens, which is located at 139 Saint Gaudens Road. Any media can be used to create an image, as long as it is on an 8x8 square made of watercolor paper or cardstock. Part of the quilt will be put together before the concert and it will be finished afterward.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea. You’ve got very upbeat music and also hopefully there will be a lot of panels and a lot of people there,” Etkind said. “Both would be a statement of ‘No, this is not acceptable and we repudiate 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 are caught and prosecuted. That being said, we’re left to counter the thoughts and the ideals and the hatred that they were espousing,” Etkind said. “We’re saying that that’s not acceptable. That’s not the America we know or we 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 a social media series that featured 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.

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