Vandalized Holocaust fountain may serve as teachable moment

Little good could be expected to come from a tragic incident where vandals badly damage a memorial fountain to Holocaust survivors. But healing messages are now being spread across the country and around the globe as Sebastopol resident Dennis Judd is launching a restoration fund to repair the fountain at Santa Rosa’s Memorial Park dedicated to his parents Lillian and Emil Judd.

“I want this to be an opportunity for as many people as possible to share my mom’s original message of coming together and confronting hate,” he said.

Extra funds will be donated to the Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, which supports educational efforts in conjunction with the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide at Sonoma State University.

Over the weekend of June 13-14, unknown vandals toppled a large ceramic water fountain and scarred nearby memorial plaques that held the names of 12 Judd family members who were all victims of the World War II Holocaust. A cemetery storage shed also was damaged and the investigation remains open.

Since its installation, the fountain has been used as part of ritual hand washing. According to chabad.org, it’s customary in Jewish culture for someone to wash their hands after participating in a funeral or visiting a cemetery. Hand washing is believed to wash away negative forces associated with spirits.

Lillian Judd was taken during the war with her family to the Auschwitz concentration camp and held by German Nazi soldiers until her escape. After arriving in the United States and California, she spent more than 25 years of her life going to many schools, colleges, and public organizations sharing her story, which can be found in her book, “From Nightmare to Freedom - Healing After the Holocaust.”

She died in June 2016 at the age of 92 and her son Dennis had the memorial fountain dedicated in 2017. He recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise repair funds and to date there have been 194 individual donations mad to total $11,591. Dennis said he plans on having a nondenominational re-dedication ceremony in the near future at the cemetery.

The fountain is not being replaced and the repairs will be intentionally visible as reminders of the vandal incident.

“We need to remind people that this isn’t over, that hate still exists and we can’t look the other way,” said Judd.

At his mother’s many visits to local schools and other groups she would always share that people need to deal with their anger. She would tell young students that anger could turn to hate if you don’t get rid of it. She would say when anger turns to hate it can lead to violence.

“My mom would say that hate and anger will hurt your heart,” said Judd. “She also taught that everyone needs to say something when they see something wrong and to stand up.”

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