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Vandals topple 70 gravestones in Winnipeg Jewish cemetery

The Jerusalem Post logo The Jerusalem Post 05/07/2022 By ALDEN TABAC

 The Mount of Olives is home to the largest Jewish cemetery in Israel © (photo credit: Kobi Cooper) The Mount of Olives is home to the largest Jewish cemetery in Israel

70 gravestones at the Congregation Shaarey Zedek cemetery outside Winnipeg, Canada, were toppled last week, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. Staff at the West Kildonan Jewish cemetery discovered the vandalized stones last Wednesday morning and reported the incident to police.

“Is it antisemitic, is that the motivation?” asked Ran Ukashi, executive director of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, speaking to the Winnipeg Free Press.

“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.”

Antisemitic, disrespectful or both?

The Algemeiner reports that, in a message to the congregation’s membership, Ukashi also noted that no graffiti was found on the stones. This has made it difficult to determine beyond doubt whether the culprits specifically targeted the cemetery because it was Jewish.

Canadian Jewish organizations have accordingly not referred the incident as antisemitic. They have instead called it an act of disrespect.

On Twitter, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg wrote that “Yesterday, we learned of a major vandalism incident which took place at Shaarey Zedek Cemetery, with 60-70 headstones being toppled over. We are horrified that anyone would demonstrate such a profound lack of respect by desecrating the resting place of our community's loved ones.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) commented on the tweet, also opting not to mention antisemitism as a motive. “CIJA joins and the Winnipeg community in condemning this despicable act of disrespect, the desecration of the final resting place of dozens of the local community’s loved ones at the Congregation Shaarey Zedek cemetery,” the organization tweeted.

Similarly, the Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted that the act was one of “despicable vandalism” that demonstrated “sheer disrespect toward members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community whose loved ones’ final resting place was desecrated.”

In another tweet,  the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg encouraged people with information about the incident to contact law enforcement. It was also noted that the Winnipeg Police Service was investigating the act.

The damage will be repaired

“Associates from local monument companies are working to reinstall the headstones, and cemetery staff are recording any damage for repair,” Ukashi told his congregation, per The Algemeiner. “Next of kin noted on plot contracts will be notified if there was any damage to a headstone.”

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