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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Herculean Act of Cowardice

This week a Jewish Cemetery in New Jersey was desecrated in a way I'd never seen.
90 percent of the headstones (nearly 500!) were knocked down and many smashed into pieces as they were pushed into one another.

Although this was front page news locally, it didn't even make it into the paper 30 miles away. I sent the link to Dov Bear who posted on it instantly, but popular as he, he's no CNN. Read about the 90 year old man who buried his family there. It will break your heart. My own dear friend CB has family there as well it's very upsetting. One would hope that when our loved ones are laid to rest we do not need to worry about them any longer. That they are safe and protected. The added stress of something like this is just cruel.

I don't know why I feel the need for more people to know about this.
To me this seems just huge somehow - clearly there were people pushing over headstones all night, hundreds of headstones falling and smashing, and no one called the cops.

Unable to resist, I actually drove by the cemetary myself to say some tehillim and check things out for myself. Out of respect for the families that were there to check on their loved ones I stayed in my car. Still I was able to scope out the surrounding area pretty well. Based on the location in which I found the cemetary (in a populated, formerly Jewish area- adjacent to a well traveled street, right next door to a supermarket) I found it unbelievable that all the damage was only found by grave diggers who had come to work the following morning!

To me this means, people knew and just didn't care.

I was so upset I called my father. "Why would someone do something like that" I said.
"Because they are cowards" my father replied "the dead don't fight back."

Perhaps the dead don't fight back, but we should.


At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shifra - I live in the area (Highland Park), and I share your disbelief that NO ONE could have seen or heard anything while such incredible destruction was happening. Add to that the ridiculous handling of the case. Initially, the New Brunswick chief of police said that it was unclear if it was a "bias incident". The next day he said that it was definitely a hate crime, and that he "misspoke" the other day. Now that they caught the teenagers responsible, they're back to saying that it may not be anti-Semitism. I think that the Jewish community needs to be on top of this, or these kids are going to get away with it.

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Shifra said...


A friend of the blog just sent me this link.

I have heard (unconfirmed) that the oldest (non jewish) section of the cemetery was left intact. Just because there were no swastikas doesn't mean it's not a hate crime.

At 7:23 PM, Blogger Jack Steiner said...

With any luck they dropped the headstones on their toes.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

"Because they are cowards" my father replied "the dead don't fight back."

Very sharp comment

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Elie said...

Horrible blow to our community and to decent people everywhere. I'm glad they caught the kids, and to be honest I don't really care whether the police call it a hate crime or not; I don't really believe in that whole classification. Their actions were just as evil whether the motive was bigotry, gang initiation, showing off, or just plain immaturity, and should be equally punished regardless of why they did it.

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

PT - I thought so too. My dad always gets right down to it.

Elie- I agree "hate crimes" always seems a little weird to me.
Any kind of malicious or destructive behaviour is bad, is it worse because the person/group you attacked is part of a minority group? I'm not sure.

Upon reading more about it seems like a strange prank gone berserk. I understand how laying down every headstone in a cemetary might seem like a good joke to some kid but as soon as they started smashing and breaking you think they would have stopped and run!

You are right, not matter why they did it they should have to pay for the damage they did.

At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was horrified when I read the story, but just a small clarification: It was reported on a more national level. A large photo with a link to the article appeared on the New York Times homepage. That is how I found out about it.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Holy Hyrax said...

>Any kind of malicious or destructive behaviour is bad, is it worse because the person/group you attacked is part of a minority group?

What if its not a minority group?

Also, this might be a stupid question, but how does the Jewish community fight back?

At 7:09 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Wow. I've admittedly been too busy to even read most of the news lately, but I can't believe I didn't hear of this until I read this post. :( That's horrible.

But HH asks a good Q - what do we do?

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

That is so disturbing...

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Looking Forward said...

I think shifra that this is not a hate crime.

More than likely I think the assumption by the teenagers was that

A they wanted to cause trouble

B They thought overturning headsounds sounded like fun

C many are not overly fond of jews

D Jews are usualy rather pacifistic and merciful,


E Noone would be likely to interupt their fun

So therefore this was the place to do it, and even if they did get caught they might well get in less trouble simply because they felt like spineless jews (I prefer the term merciful) wouldn't press things and force the heads to roll in city hall if little was done.

But I doubt this was directed specificaly at the jews, less than at a minority group in general, and we happened to be one who's graves were identifiable.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

I really don't care if this is a "hate crime" causing pain and suffering to anyone without reason is hateful as far as I'm concerned.
What happened here is that the resting place of 499 beloved family members were disturbed and no one cared enough to stop them.

Obviously as a Jew this crime speaks to me because it affects my own people but I would be quite upset to hear if something similar happened at any cemetery.

I don't really understand your logic HNC - if they KNEW it was Jewish cemetery and targeted it BECAUSE it was one (for whatever reason) then that's a specifically anti-Jewish action.

If you had argued that they wanted to push over headstones and this was the only cemetary around (or the least guarded one...) that would make more sense.

When I say fight back... maybe what I mean is protect yourself at
the very least.

When the first sets of headstones were pushed over in the weeks before someone should have taken action. Secured the cemetery, increased patrols, made the neighbors aware or offer rewards for tips regarding any nighttime activity in the graveyard.
I don't know if any of these things were done or not, but the fact that such a full scale operation could take place so shortly after smaller incidents without the teens being caught in the act before they were allowed to destroy so much propertly dissapoints me greatly.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Looking Forward said...

it upsets me greatly also. Personaly I could care less if it was a hate crime.

and what I think makes it not a hate crime is that it seems to have simply been that it was convenient, not something that they did because they passionately hated jews and wanted to upset us.

I doubt they were thinking that far ahead actualy. Teens tend not to.

I agree with you that the upsetting people is whats the essential crime here.

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Shifra.
That's very nice of you to care for the people buried there. Saying Tehillim for them was a very sensitive thing to do, Hashem bless you.
If you know any of them who does not receive Kaddish from his/her sons on Yorzeit (anniversary), please let us know on our Website and Beezrat Hashem we will take care of this (of course, this is a 100% free service). May we only hear good news!
Chaye Netzach

At 2:19 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And Live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day,

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

Whil I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,

I hear it in the deep heart's core.

-----by runescape powerleveling

At 7:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why we dont care ?
You dont understand that ?
Cause you and your fellowtribeman live in a fantasy world, and last time it was a jewish girl who dsicrated the graves.
greetings from Europe !

At 10:45 AM, Blogger ROSA E OLIVIER said...


"love is the one who masters all things."

Mawlãnã Rumi...for you.

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for people to know.


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