Seventy gravestones knocked down at Jewish cemetery

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Vandals have toppled 70 headstones in a Winnipeg Jewish cemetery.

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Vandals have toppled 70 headstones in a Winnipeg Jewish cemetery.

Ran Ukashi, executive director of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, said staff at its cemetery across from Kildonan Park discovered the vandalism early Wednesday and reported it to Winnipeg police, as well as congregants whose family headstones may have been damaged.

“This just appears to be vandalism, but at the same time, quite extensive. It’s not easy to push over those headstones,” Ukashi said, noting staff didn’t find graffiti on the grave markers or cemetery property.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ran Ukashi, executive director of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, said staff at its cemetery discovered the vandalism early Wednesday and reported it to Winnipeg police, as well as congregants whose family headstones may have been damaged.

He said it’s unclear why the cemetery was targeted.

“Is it antisemitic, is that the motivation? Is the motivation just sheer mischief? Unfortunately, we don’t know, but what we do know is there was a significant effort put into doing that form of vandalism… it’s very difficult to do and they took their time with it,” he said.

Ukashi said the congregation hopes the culprits are caught. He wants anyone who spotted anything unusual at the cemetery, no matter how small, to contact police.

“I’d want to know why they would do it, and give them an opportunity to apologize, and not to me, but to apologize to the people whose memory he insulted or she insulted… and to the families of those they affected,” he said.

“Why go about doing something like this, what do you stand to gain from this? If it’s a cheap thrill, then think better of it, and if it’s anti-Jewish prejudice, then educate yourself.”

The incident is “enormously” painful for the families of the deceased.

“It’s the ultimate insult both to the living and the dead,” Ukashi said.

“There’s also the broader context of this being quite a frequent problem in Jewish cemeteries. It’s happened in Winnipeg on more than one occasion — at our cemetery and other cemeteries — but also across the world.”

Ukashi said the congregation has engaged monument companies to reset the headstones and hopes repairs can take place within days.

The first burial in the cemetery was in 1894. The congregation has alerted B’nai Brith Canada and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg about the vandalism.

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera
Reporter

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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