Jewish community leaders outraged after 70-year-old grave was desecrated, remains stolen

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Jewish community leaders are outraged about a desecrated grave found in Hartford. The body – buried for 70 years – was dug up from a Jewish cemetery and the remains were stolen, most likely on Halloween night.

Related: Remains buried for 70 years were dug up, stolen from Jewish cemetery, Hartford PD says

Jewish laws are very specific: the body is sacred and it’s supposed to be placed in the ground as quickly as possible after death. Digging it up disturbs the soul.

39-year-old Samuel Shlien died in 1958, and was given a Jewish burial, in a Jewish cemetery in Hartford. That was 71 years ago. Police say someone went into the cemetery in the middle of the night, dug 6 feet into the ground with a shovel, and removed his body.

Rabbi Joseph I. Gopin of Chabad House was beside himself Thursday night, saying, “By doing it, you’re disregarding the body, the soul it’s disrespectful, and it is desecrating a holy thing like a human body!”

Rabbi Gopin is just one of hundreds of community leaders gathering Thursday night, celebrating the Jewish faith, and talking about the violation of Jewish law.

While many people haven’t heard about this, and this is a first for many of the Jewish leaders, how is this happening? Why do it? It’s actually happened not once but twice in Connecticut in the last decade.

In 2015 and 2016 bones believed to be stolen from Massachusetts cemeteries turned up in homes in Bridgeport as well as Hartford, two men arrested and they told the court they were Santeria priests, religion that combines Catholicism and western African religions. The bones are used to perform ceremonies.

Hartford major crimes is investigating this case. A suspect has yet to be found.

Lt. Aaron Boisvert of Hartford PD said of the incident, “It’s not one we see too often, so we have to look it up. You have a larceny charge, you have a desecration charge; it’s not something we’re used to often, but the laws do exist on the books.”

“I hope these people will wake up repent to God and return the body right away, so we can give the body a right burial and make sure that the body can rest in peace forever.”

– Rabbi Joseph I. Gopin

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