Jewish cemetery in New York desecrated with Nazi graffiti

It remains unclear whether or not kids desecrated the cemetery wall, but the congregation rabbi says neo-Nazism is 'alive and well'

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The Independent US

Vandals have spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti on the gates of a Jewish cemetery in upstate New York, days before the beginning of Yom Kippur. 

Nazi symbols – including swastikas, the German military police letters “SS”, and “Heil Hitler – covered the stone gates of the Temple Beth Shalom cemetery in Warwick, a town 55 miles northwest of New York City. 

The vandalism comes at a time of inflamed anxiety amid the emergence of fringe white nationalism, or Alt-Right, stoked by the furore of the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Mr Trump has repeatedly faced denunciation for his apparent unwillingness to disavow support from supporters like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and American Nazi Party leader Rocky Suhayda.

Police notified Temple president Josh Gottlieb of the vandalism Sunday morning, the Times Herald-Record reported, as onlookers drove past the cemetery, observing the graffiti in shock. 

“Obviously, someone came with premeditated intentions,” Mr Gottlieb told the Herald-Record. “This was very well thought out.”

Fortunately for the 70-year-old synagogue, the vandals left the gravestones untouched. 

Still, the community was left in shock. 

“I’ve never, ever experienced this before, here or anywhere else in our community,” said Rabbi Rebecca Shinder. Ms Shinder has been rabbi of the congregation for 11 years, and called the desecration of the cemetery “intensely personal”.

“This is not just about the swastikas and Nazi Germany, even though ‘Heil Hitler’ was written on the stones,” she added. “It represents hatred and persecution of the Jewish people throughout the centuries. 

“It’s a symbol of hatred and intimidation.”

Removal of the graffiti is already underway, and the cemetery committee has no plans to build a bigger wall to prevent future desecration of the sacred site. 

“It’s a boundary, not a barrier,” cemetery committee co-chair Michael Melasky said. “There is no security, and no need for security.”

Temple board member Marcia Matthus echoed the sentiment: “You cannot fight hatred with a bigger wall.”

It still remains unclear who precisely was behind the vandalism.

“I don’t know if it is or it isn’t [a group of kids behind the graffiti. Which is worse? I don’t know,” said Rabbi Shinder. “But neo-Nazism is, unfortunately, alive and well in Europe and here."