Vandals wreck 100 gravestones at Jewish cemetery

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The Independent Online

A historic Jewish cemetery in Manchester has been desecrated by vandals who smashed 100 gravestones in a "sickening" act of anti-Semitism.

A historic Jewish cemetery in Manchester has been desecrated by vandals who smashed 100 gravestones in a "sickening" act of anti-Semitism.

MPs called for the police to bring the "thugs" to justice after graves were broken, thrown on top of each other and pushed over, in an orchestrated "racist" attack.

The cemetery desecration is the 115th since 1990 and highlights a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Britain over the past five years. There were 532 anti-Semitic incidents last year, the highest since records began 20 years ago.

Staff at Rainsough Jewish Cemetery in Prestwich, where Holocaust survivors are believed to be buried, were shocked to find yesterday morning that an entire section of the cemetery had been destroyed.

Members of the Jewish community condemned the vandalism and said it appeared to be a deliberate act of anti-Semitism. "This is another example of a cemetery where there has been extensive damage caused by a person or people intent on targeting Jewish sites," said a spokeswoman for the Community Security Trust, which provides security for the UK's Jewish community. "It is very distressing for the families connected to the cemetery and the wider community. This type of offence is abhorrent."

Each gravestone, some of which are 70 years old, will cost about £1,000 to replace. There have been nine acts of vandalism at the Bury cemetery since 1990, including in 1993 when the words "Kill Jews Hail [sic] Hitler" were scrawled on a post.

Det Insp Simon Collier, of Greater Manchester Police, said it was "beyond words, it is despicable. Relatives will be distraught. Each grave damaged has Hebrew inscriptions on it. I think it is a racist incident.

"It is disgusting that someone could commit a crime of such a thoughtless and disrespectful nature in a place where people come to grieve and mourn the loss of their loved ones."

Ivan Lewis, the MP for Bury South, travelled back to his constituency from London to talk to local people about the incident. Mr Lewis said: "This is a sick act by thugs who have no regard for basic standards of human decency. I expect the police will make every effort to apprehend those responsible and I hope the courts will ensure their punishment reflects the severity of this crime."

Louis Rapaport, president of the Jewish Representatives Council for Greater Manchester, said the wrecking of the gravestones appeared to "be a planned operation".

"To do so much damage must have taken some time. You get attacks on cemeteries of different faiths as well, but I don't think you get ones with so many graves damaged. It seems to me something more than a few casual louts," he said.

A local Rabbi, Arnold Saunders, said it was a "mindless" act that had left local people very upset.