In revulsion, I read the headlines:
“Temple Commences Active Shooter Drills;”
“Synagogue’s Director of Security Purchases Body Bags in Preparation For Next Squirrel Hill;”
“Local Rabbi Receives Threatening Emails”
The last story in my local paper, the Middletown Times Herald-Record, caught my attention.
Mouthing the article’s words, as if I were a second grader, I read:
Sunday morning at 10:31, Rabbi Alan Kessler of the Temple Glen Wild received the following email:
Hitler was right!
You belong in the ovens!
Even your dead must suffer!
No one can protect your cemeteries!
The authorities are not going to protect you!
Get your fat Jewish asses to Israel!
Rabbi Kessler reported the threat to the New York State Police Department as well as the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
Both agencies said they have commenced an investigation.
The Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Jones called the email sender, “A disturbed coward. Real men don’t send racist emails.”
Jones added, “Hate crimes will not be tolerated in our community.”
But he warned, “All mourners should take precautions when they visit the cemetery.”
The police are calling on the community for any and all assistance in solving this crime.
I screw up my eyes and wondered, “Take what precautions?”
“Carry a loaded pistol.”
“Be prepared to throw stones at the bastards.”
“Hold your cell phone, in case you need to call the police.”
“Only visit the cemetery with friends.”
I could do that.
Since I infrequently paid my respects to my buried family.
It wouldn’t be hard to get someone to accompany me.
On those infrequent visits, I observed the peacefulness of the changing of the seasons.
Fall—graves covered in red, yellow and orange quilts;
Winter—white blankets warmed their head stones;
Summer—yellow dandelions framed the graves as if G-d had planted them;
Spring—deer, squirrels, and mourners left identifiable tracks as if they wanted other mourners to know they had been there.
Here is where I wanted to be buried.
This cemetery was going to be my final resting place.
A cemetery, that since its inception over 100 years ago, had never been molested by anti-Semitism.
A cemetery, located on a deserted country road, that was as unprotected as a newborn in Auschwitz.
I began obsessing on the bitter taste of disgust, horror and vengeance covering my gums.
I knew history repeated itself, for in the 1930’s, in the Catskill Mountains, the Klan intimidated their Jewish neighbors with threatening letters, white robes, and burnt crosses.
A series of images flashed in my head:
overturned headstones in Philly and St. Louis;
Nazis using Jewish headstones for road construction;
black swastikas scrawled across American gravestones;
my grandmother’s, grandfather’s and uncle’s, (all survivors) tombstones.
Would I allow swastikas to be painted on their headstones?
But I knew:
that the cops weren’t going to protect this back-road cemetery;
that the latch on the cemetery gate was never locked;
that no surveillance cameras focused on the burial plots;
that no mourners or guards would be present after dark;
that no signs were nailed to trees reading:
VANDALS WILL BE SHOT FIRST
ASKED QUESTIONS LATER.
I wanted to write a warning sign:
THIS CEMETERY PROTECTED BY AN ACTIVE SHOOTER
I owned a rifle, with a night-vision scope, and a LED flashlight.
Retirement meant I had the time to spot, shot and send these email-writing bastards to their graves.
My gun, scope and the ammunition were purchased at a gun show in Florida.
No questions asked.
No paper trail.
My memory was clear on how Murder Incorporated took care of this anti-Semitic disease in Sullivan County in the 1930’s.
They injected infected bodies with multiple doses of lead, cemented their legs together and threw their bodies into the deep end of Lake Kiamesha.
Klan members and the problem they caused disappeared.
These gangsters understood life:
If you got a problem, solve it yourself;
Don’t expect others to fight your battles for you;
Talk is cheap and inaction expensive;
Actions have consequences.
Their methods had worked for over 80 years.
But now a new generation needed immunization.
Incorporated murderers had been guardians of the living—I would be a guardian of the dead.
As if I was Rambo, I packed my knapsack with: a large thermos of coffee, a box of Yodels, and three cheese sandwiches, 20 rounds of ammunition and my LED flashlight.
I put on my lucky Uzi bullet necklace.
In the late afternoon, I parked my car in the woods.
I hiked with my rifle slung over my shoulder as if I was marching toward Berlin.
For one mile, I fought the branches and rocks, trying not to trip on my face.
On my arrival, I studied the cemetery grounds looking for the ideal hiding spot.
There it was—on the edge of the cemetery—a hunter’s tree stand.
Climbing onto the stand, I tried to make myself invisible.
In darkness, through the lenses of my scope, my eye scanned the area for any source of light.
Perched eight feet above the ground, my body ached from lack of movement.
While my loaded rifle, with the safety off, ached to be fired.
My brain yelled, “To hell with consequences! Sometimes risks must be taken!”
I calmed my nerves by sipping hot coffee, eating the sandwiches and devouring the Yodels.
All evidence of my presence,—wrapping papers and Baggies—found their way back into my knapsack.
As the chocolate and whipped cream melted in my mouth, in my jacket pocket, my gloved fingers warmed a bullet.
At 8:30 pm, I heard a muffler.
The driver flicked off his headlights and coasted toward the cemetery gate.
Two men exited the pickup, unlatched the gate and walked into the cemetery.
One was over six feet tall and the other about five and a half.
With slurred speech and wobbly steps they laughed and cursed.
“When this shit hits the papers, it will scare the crap out of those kikes.”
They carried spray paint, flashlights and rifles.
They were men in black—black jeans, black jackets, black boots and black woolen face masks.
Only their white teeth reflected any light.
Approaching the gravestones, they started to push, kick and shove the stones.
They spray painted the insignia of the SS, swastikas and “KIKE” on the stones that hadn’t toppled.
The cold air amplified the sounds of their zippers opening and urine splattering on stone.
I decided, “The tall one first.”
My trigger finger flexed.
My eye focused on the cross hairs, aiming for the bridge of the tall one’s nose.
I inhaled and as I exhaled, I pulled the trigger.
His head exploded and his hands fell away from his privates.
The shorter man now covered in blood screamed, “This shit ain’t happening!”
My second round bore into his opened mouth and exited the back of his head.
Silence blanketed the cemetery.
The smell of gun powder rose into my nostrils
Aiming my flashlight on the ground, I picked up the two spent shells and deposited them in my knapsack.
I hiked back to my car.
I drove to Kiamesha.
At around 1:00 am, in an abandoned boat, I rowed into the deep end of Lake Kiamesha, where I threw my rifle, scope and knapsack into the dark water.
Relieved as I watched them sink, I thought, “History does repeat itself.”
Two days later, a new headline appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record:
“Two Men Murdered in Glen Wild Jewish Cemetery While Committing Acts of Vandalism”
Rabbi Kessler was quoted, “While I do not condone the shooter’s actions, I wholeheartedly understand his or her motive.”
I stopped reading and asked myself, “Had I solved the problem?”
“Had I sent the right message?”
I closed my eyes and wondered.