With small instances of anti-Semitism cropping up locally, it’s easy to be on edge.
The Exponent reported three incidents in a span of 11 days. And while that was going on, in Cherry Hill, Lisa Cromwell was investigating a situation she felt was possibly anti-Semitic.
In June, when Cromwell went to visit her parents’ graves in the Jewish section at Locustwood Memorial Cemetery, she was upset to find that the flag and holder that were set up (her father was a veteran) had been knocked down.
She said she told the front office about what she found and was met with an unapologetic response and was given a flag to put back up herself.
When she went back in July to visit again, she found that her father’s flag was back up, but six others were mowed down and “shredded.” She took the names of these veterans and reported it.
She got in touch with the landscaping company; with funeral directors who work with Locustwood; the Office of Veterans Affairs; and the Jewish War Veterans Cherry Hill chapter.
Cromwell encountered conflicting information about when the flags should be up: Though she’d been told it was year-round, the front office said the flags are only up between Labor Day and Veterans Day.
“I called the cemetery, I posed as one of the relatives of one of the war veterans and I asked where the flags were,” Cromwell said. “He said, ‘The flags are only up between Labor Day and Veterans Day’ — Veterans Day hasn’t happened yet.”
Over the course of the next few months, she worked with Cherry Hill Councilwoman Melinda Kane, as well as Henry David of the Jewish War Veterans. He brought her an extra flag for her father’s site to replace the one that had been knocked down.
When she went back again Oct. 6, she found that her mom’s plaque was scratched.
“To me, it’s just been totally devastating,” she said.
While she and others were fearful at first that it was an instance of anti-Semitism since it seemed only the Jewish sections of the cemetery — there are two Jewish sections — had been carelessly treated, it was determined this was not the case.
David, senior vice commander of Jewish War Veterans (JWV) Post 126 in Cherry Hill, said that he looked up the guidelines from the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery, which stipulates that flags should be set up a week before Memorial Day and taken down a day or two after Memorial Day to not be damaged during cemetery upkeep.
David went with Councilwoman and Gold Star mother Kane, who works at the Camden County Office of Veterans Affairs, to meet Cromwell at the cemetery, where they saw that the flags on the Jewish side were down — as were the flags on the non-Jewish sides as well.
“It was just the grounds-keepers taking care of mowing the lawn,” he said. “It looked broken, not like it was deliberately done.”
He and the JWV executive committee determined that it was not done with malice.
Jonathan Ger, regional vice president of Stonemor Partners L.P., the company that owns Locustwood, said that he did not get the impression that the Jewish section was targeted.
“Whether I was Jewish or not, it would be offensive — but as a Jewish person it would be more offensive,” he said, adding he had spoken with Kane who’d expressed similar concerns about it being an anti-Semitic incident. “But there was no indication this was the case.”
Kane ultimately agreed.
“I feel that the lawncare company did not intentionally come in and move flags from the sections as an act of anti-Semitism,” Kane said. “I’m satisfied with the explanation and that it was a one-time situation.”
Cromwell also spoke with Bernie Platt of Platt Memorial Chapels, who Cromwell said was unhappy with the news when she told him about the flags. But Platt said since that first time in the summer, there has not been an issue.
“There is nothing specific to the Jewish section that I’m aware of as far as damage or vandalism,” said Harry Platt, Bernie’s son.
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