Community appeals for help after headstones smashed at 300-year old cemetery
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Community appeals for help after headstones smashed at 300-year old cemetery

Chatham Memorial Synagogue in Rochester launches online appeal after headstones discovered upended and shattered this month

Damaged headstones in Chatham Memorial Synagogue's historic cemetery
Damaged headstones in Chatham Memorial Synagogue's historic cemetery

A shul in Rochester is appealing for donations to repair its 300-year-old cemetery and improve security after headstones were discovered upended and shattered this month.

Chatham Memorial Synagogue has already raised £5,000 since launching the appeal on Virgin Money Giving at the weekend – including £4,000 from one donor.

Alerted to the damage on 8 October, Kent Police believe it may have been caused between 27 September and 4 October.

The Grade II*-listed synagogue was allegedly targeted in similar incidents twice over recent years, and members reportedly discovered excrement on the shul’s front steps on Saturday morning.

Chair trustee Dalia Halpern-Matthews said: “We have very basic CCTV at the moment, but not more than that, and we’ve always allowed access into the cemetery so people can come and visit their loved-ones whenever.

“But obviously we now need to make it more secure, beef up the CCTV system, make it so its access is by appointment only, and we need to restore the cemetery.”

The community is looking into hiring a specialist stonemason to repair the damaged headstones, she said. “Some of the stones are repairable. Some of them are going to have to be completely replaced. It’s not a small job.”

But the synagogue has also received outpourings of support and offers of practical help from across communities, including Muslim, Pagan and Christian groups.

“It’s really lovely and heartwarming to see the support that we’ve had across faiths,” said Halpern-Matthews.

“I’m hoping that what we’ll do is have a ‘make a difference day’ so we can actually get lots of different people together and give them lots of food and actually make a big day of actually getting things back as best we can,” she added.

Anyone with information should call 01634 792209 quoting crime reference: 46/194406/19.

Alternatively, the independent charity Crimestoppers in Kent can be reached anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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