Vandals cut a swath of carnage across Washington Cemetery at the corner of McDonald Avenue and Bay Parkway last weekend, where 200 headstones were covered in graffiti, then toppled over.
The widespread damage was discovered on early Sunday morning, surprising workers and visitors to Brooklyn’s largest Jewish cemetery alike.
“I was shocked and disappointed,” cemetery superintendent Dominick Tarantino told us. “Whatever happened to honoring the dead?”
The police are investigating the vandalism, but cops do not know exactly when it happened or how many people were involved.
Neither does Tarantino.
“We close at 3:30 pm on Friday and are closed all day Saturday,” he said. “Whoever did this had all that time.”
Vandals had to scale a six-foot fence to get inside the cemetery. The popular resting place for Brooklyn Jews does have a security guard, but only when it is open, explained Tarantino, who believes “a bunch of kids” is responsible.
“I guess they have too much idle time on their hands and don’t go on the computer like other kids,” he said.
This is the second act of vandalism to hit the cemetery in recent weeks. Several headstones were knocked over on Nov. 30, Tarantino said.
Cops are treating both incidents as potential hate crimes because the cemetery caters to Jewish residents.
At the same time, local leaders are offering rewards for any information that will lead police to the vandals.
“We will not accept this kind of crime in our community,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Borough Park), who is offering $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits. “These vandals have violated the sanctity of the final resting place of over 150,000 Jewish New Yorkers.”
Councilman Michael Nelson (D-Midwood) is also offering $1,000.
“It is obvious that the targets were the deceased Jewish individuals buried in this cemetery and their families who now have to deal with more heartbreak after saying goodbye and burying their loved ones,” Nelson said, adding that many of the headstones memorialized Russian Jewish immigrants and Holocaust survivors “were knocked over and damaged beyond repair.”
Tarantino said it was unclear just how extensive the damage is.
“Once the police let us back in that area, we will compile a list of the damaged graves,” he said. “We’ll do what we can, then contact the families and tell them what needs to be done.”
Anyone with information regarding last weekend’s vandalism is urged to contact the NYPD CrimeStoppers hotline at (800) 577-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.
©2010 Community News Group
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