Bishop, Students Call Attention to Defacing of Plaque

Bishop, Students Call Attention to Defacing of Plaque

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Bishop George H. Niederauer of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and 10 students from Judge Memorial High School hiked to Memory Grove, where a plaque had been defaced with anti-Jewish sentiment.

The plaque, part of a Judge Memorial religious freedom shrine, originally was engraved with the quote, "Upon his deeds not his ideas does God's favor rest on man," attributed to Rabbi Eric Silver.

The vandal marked out "God" and "Rabbi" and scratched into the plaque, "Jews suck."

Former Salt Lake planning director Stephen Goldsmith discovered the graffiti earlier this fall. He told his friend, lawyer Pat Shea, who contacted the high school.

On Monday morning, Niederauer and the students went to the site, which is one of several shrines to various freedoms erected by Salt Lake City public and private high schools two decades ago.

The students had hoped to replace the plaque, which has been removed, but the new plaque was not finished in time. They still made the trip to discuss the incident and speak out against it.

Niederauer told the students that it is not enough to not make discriminatory remarks yourself, to not deface a plaque yourself.

He said we fail each other when we sit by when someone else tells a racist joke or scratches hateful words.

Speaking up against hateful speech is like exercise, he told the students. "Other people can't exercise for us, or worship for us, or defend freedom for us." Perhaps the defacing was done in the dark, the bishop said. Now, "in the daylight, we're up here saying 'this will not do.' "

Silver, who served at Salt Lake City's Congregation Kol Ami from 1981 to 1987, said Monday from his synagogue in Connecticut that he had not heard about the vandalism, but called it an "act of a criminal mind."

"It is unfortunate that in times that we'd like to regard as enlightened this sort of thing can still occur," he said.

He commended the students "for their work in remedying what has been done. It's a true act of compassion on their part."

Vandalism is not unknown in city parks, but it's rarely something as "cruel and nasty" as the defaced plaque, said Rick Graham, director of public services for Salt Lake City.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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