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October 23, 2019 1:14 pm

UK Jewish Groups Condemn Desecration of Synagogue Cemetery

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The Chatham Memorial Synagogue cemetery in Rochester, Kent, United Kingdom. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Leading UK Jewish groups on Wednesday condemned the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Rochester, Kent.

The vandalism at the Chatham Memorial Synagogue cemetery in Rochester, Kent, apparently took place on the eve of Rosh Hashanah and was discovered an hour before the beginning of Yom Kippur. Tombstones were upended, pried out of the ground and smashed to pieces with sledgehammers.

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, said, “This disgraceful antisemitic vandalism will cause huge upset to the families of those buried in the cemetery and to all right-thinking people.”

“The low lives who perpetrated this hateful attack should face the full force of the law,” she added.

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Stephen Silverman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism said, “This cowardly act of vandalism must not go unpunished. We are grateful to Kent Police for their swift response.”

The Daily Mail quoted Dalia Halpern-Matthews, the chair of trustees at the 300-year-old Chatham Memorial Synagogue, as saying she “was in shock” when the vandalism was discovered.

“It’s difficult to describe the sense of horror at the disrespect and needless violence,” she noted.

The police currently have no leads, and there were no security cameras at the site, making identification of the perpetrators unlikely.

“It’s frustrating that there’s little chance of a prosecution because of this,” said Halpern-Matthews. “Police can’t even call it a hate crime even though it happened at the synagogue because there were no swastikas this time.”

She blamed the tense political atmosphere in Britain, particularly regarding the Brexit issue, for the incident and a general rise in antisemitism.

“Before the referendum the attacks were few and far between,” she said.

“We have now had swastikas drawn on the ground, human excrement spread on the front door, and stained-glass windows smashed on the day of my son’s bar mitzvah,” she stated.

“The damage done by Brexit is something we will be dealing with for generations,” she added. “It is any wonder people are behaving in this way when you hear how politicians speak in parliament? They are giving permission to hate.”

“There are so many parallels with 1930s Germany now,” she said, pointing out that most of the synagogue members had lost family in the Holocaust.

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