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Jewish group visits Native American vigil in Bay Area

JTA

May 9, 2011 | 11:31 am

A dozen San Francisco Bay Area Jews visited an ongoing protest at a Native American burial site.

The Jews, who are affiliated with several congregations and social action groups in Berkeley, Calif., billed Sunday’s visit as a cultural exchange timed to Mother’s Day.

“We wanted to support the Native people trying to protect their sacred site and reflect upon similar experiences we have had with our sacred places,” said Wendy Kenin, who organized the event. “We hope that nurturing our natural alliance with them will help remind us of our own connections with the land of Israel and burial sites of our ancestors.”

Since mid-April, Native Americans have been maintaining a protest vigil at Glen Cove Waterfront Park, a 15-acre stretch of shorefront land northeast of San Francisco slated for development. Plans call for building a parking lot and other construction on top of a burial ground that has been used by several local tribes since 1500 BCE, according to University of California researchers.

Kenin says the Native Americans at the site told the visitors that “this is the resting place of our grandmothers and grandfathers.”

The Jewish visitors shared their religious beliefs regarding death and respect for ancestors, and explained why Jews visit their relatives’ graves.

Members of the Ohlone, Miwok, Pomo and other local tribes consider the development proposal a violation of their religious rights. They note it is the last of their local burial sites not yet paved over. Several clashes with police since the vigil began have ended without incident.

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