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Archive for Monday, June 22, 2009

Effort to rename road for rabbi is criticized

June 22, 2009

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— Missouri’s litter prevention program got an unusual ally last year: A neo-Nazi group adopted a half-mile section of highway in Springfield and picked up the trash.

The state said it had no way to reject the group’s application, saying membership in the Adopt-A-Highway program can’t be denied because of a group’s political beliefs.

Lawmakers responded with an amendment to a large transportation bill that would rename that section of road after Abraham Joshua Heschel, a rabbi who narrowly escaped the Nazis in World War II and later marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

But the move is being criticized by Heschel’s daughter, who objects to naming the neo-Nazi’s patch of highway after her father and calls the plan “highly inappropriate and vulgar.”

“I don’t want Nazis stomping on a highway named for my father. What are they going to do then if they don’t pick up the litter? The whole thing is disgusting,” said Susannah Heschel, professor of Jewish history at Dartmouth College.

“It may be an attempt to teach the neo-Nazis a lesson,” she said. “But I think it’s an affront to my father’s dignity to attach his name to a neo-Nazi highway.”

The Springfield unit of the National Socialist Movement committed last year to clean up trash along the section of Highway 160 near the city limits in west Springfield. Two signs noting the group’s membership in the Adopt-A-Highway program went up last October.

A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling arising from a similar effort by the Ku Klux Klan says membership in the Adopt-A-Highway program can’t be denied because of a group’s political beliefs.

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