Police appeal after headstones smashed at historic Jewish cemetery

Police appeal after headstones smashed at historic Jewish cemetery

Headstones at Chatham Memorial Synagogue in Rochester were found smashed

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

Police are appealing for witnesses after headstones were found shattered and upended at a historic Jewish cemetery in Kent earlier this month.

Officers were called on October 8 to reports several headstones had been desecrated in the burial grounds of the Grade II*-listed Chatham Memorial Synagogue.

It is believed the damage may have been caused between September 27 and October 4, police said.

Kent Police have reviewed CCTV and are offering crime prevention advice to those responsible for the cemetery, which is estimated to date back to 1700.

Kent Police’s District Commander for Medway Chief Inspector Ian Dyball said: “This type of incident is thankfully very rare but I appreciate the impact it has had on the local community.

“Local patrols will continue to monitor the area and if anyone has any concerns I would encourage them to speak to the officers and PCSOs when they see them.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said the “disgraceful” act of vandalism “will cause huge upset to the families of those buried in the cemetery and to all right-thinking people.”

“The low lives who perpetrated this hateful attack should face the full force of the law,” she added.

Dalia Halpern-Matthews, the chair of trustees at the shul, revealed that the Dialogue Society, Kent Muslim Welfare Association and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have extended messages of support.

“I have had phone calls, emails and messages and face to face contact with […] the local Muslim communities who have even gone as far as to offer members of their communities to help us clear up,” she said.

Local MP Kelly Tollhurst tweeted that she was “horrified by this appalling attack on a Jewish cemetery in my constituency. Incidents like this should scare us all, not least at a time of rising Antisemitism. My thoughts are with the families of those buried there & with the wider Kent Jewish community.”

Chatham Memorial Synagogue will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign to improve the security of the cemetery.

Anyone with information that may help police with their enquiries is asked to call 01634 792209 with the 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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