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Melville's Anne Frank Memorial Garden opens for season after vandalism

Holocaust survivor Meir Usherovitz, of St. James, center,

Holocaust survivor Meir Usherovitz, of St. James, center, at the Anne Frank Memorial Garden with his wife, Doris, and Huntington Town officials at Arboretum Park in Melville on Sunday. The sculpture of a young girl's dress honors Frank. Credit: James Carbone

When the Town of Huntington’s Anne Frank Memorial Garden was vandalized in April, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said he was so distraught hearing the news that he made an illegal U-turn to immediately assess the damage.

“It was a sad day in Huntington,” Lupinacci said of the markings that defaced parts of the garden. “We were just so emotional when it happened.”

The damage was repaired and, on Sunday, Lupinacci along with more than 40 other officials, veterans and community members gathered at the memorial to commemmorate its ninth anniversary and the memory of Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

Frank, whose diary of her time hiding during the Holocaust remains globally renown, would have been 90.

Sunday's ceremony was marked with prayers, readings of passages of Anne’s diary, religious songs and words from Holocaust survivor Meir Usherovitz, 92, of St. James, who recounted his experiences.

Usherovitz talked about being taken away by the Nazis, surviving multiple concentration camps including the infamous Auschwitz camp, and living through the deaths of many close to him.

“I do [these speeches] because I want people to know what people can do to each other,” he said.

Being at the garden “makes me feel about how what she went through," Usherovitz said. "I understand; I went through this also.”

Legislator and former Huntington Town councilwoman Susan Berland and Lupinacci said Frank’s writing has never been more important.

“The uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in New York has been tremendous,” Berland said. “The overwhelming number of anti-bias events are against Jews, and then there’s the shooting in temples.”

If more people were more exposed to Frank and her writings, such hate would decrease, she added.

Those who attended the ceremony came with the same vision. Sharon Chenkoff, from Nassau County , was at the garden for the first time Sunday.

“Anne Frank left us a lot of courage and we wanted to respect her. When we heard about this thing [the ceremony], we wanted to attend,” she said. She brought her granddaughter “to teach her," Chenkoff said.

Usherovitz’s daughter Ronnit Kessler, a Huntington resident, was also seeing the garden for the first time, and said she plans to be back.

“It’s a sanctuary of sorts and a means to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, and hopefully, for future generations to really take it in,” she said, adding she feels proud and “very fortunate that it’s [a part of] my town.”

Berland said the garden was important to help people keep in mind Frank’s ideal of believing in good no matter how much evil one faced.

“I don’t believe that kind of action is going to win the day,” Berland said of the vandalism. “I believe in events like this that talk about love and compassion and a bright future. That’s what’s going to lead us and our next generation.”

Anne Frank Memorial Garden

• The Melville park project was spearheaded by former Huntington Town councilwoman Marlene Budd, and later, then-councilwoman Susan Berland took charge with landscaper Steve Dubner to unveil it in 2010.

• The memorial consists of a circular pathway that surrounds a garden. The pathway's texture is broken into stages, each symbolizing the different time in the life of Anne Frank.

• Two chestnut trees are near the memorial. For Anne Frank, a chestnut tree she was able to see while in hiding came to symbolize freedom.

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