Thursday, October 7, 2004

United Jewish Cemetery struck again by vandals

More than 100 headstones tipped

By Reid Forgrave
Enquirer staff writer

EVANSTON - More than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery were tipped over this week, breaking many century-old marble headstones - the third time in just over a year that vandals have targeted the cemetery.

United Jewish Cemetery officials said they believe the vandalism to "be a crime of anger, not of hate."

"It's just very, very sickening," said Ed Marks, a board member at United Jewish Cemetery in Evanston, which holds several thousand graves dating from 1850.

"It's ugly, not just from an aesthetic standpoint but from a human standpoint. It's such a tragedy that the memory of people, whether it's Jew or Gentile, black or white or green or yellow, that the memory of these people has been desecrated."

Cemetery officials notified Cincinnati police Monday, and police are investigating. Both the cemetery and Crime Stoppers are offering awards for tips leading to the arrests of the vandals.

Cemetery officials estimate the damage from the most recent vandalism spree at $20,000, meaning the cemetery has absorbed nearly $50,000 in damage during the past six weeks. Insurance covers only part of the damage, said Bill Riegel, superintendent of the cemetery.

In 2003, vandals tipped over and broke about 38 gravestones.

In August, the grounds of the cemetery - one of 26 Jewish cemeteries in the Cincinnati area - were peppered with nearly 100 shattered monuments, some so heavy they made indentations in the ground when they fell.

Cemetery officials said they were working on a maintenance contract to use cranes and forklifts to upright some of the heavier headstones - some of which weigh up to 3,000 pounds - that had been knocked over in the August vandalism when vandals struck again.

Riegel said the cemetery can't afford more security, such as having a full-time guard, and cemetery officials don't want to make the cemetery less accessible by putting up more barriers, locking the gates at night or placing guard dogs on the 10-acre property.

Cemetery officials have asked neighbors to keep an eye out.

Riegel points out that vandals have not struck other nearby cemeteries, such as the Walnut Hills or the Calvary.

"There is definitely a reason they're coming to us, but we don't know what the reason is," Riegel said.

The cemetery can be reached at (513) 961-0178 and Crime Stoppers can be reached at (513) 352-3040.



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