Crime Watch

November 28, 2007|By Liz F. Kay

Vandals desecrate Jewish cemetery

Vandals knocked down 160 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Northeast Baltimore late last week, police and cemetery officials said.

Some of the grave markers in the B'nai Israel Cemetery, which is more than a century old, are 7 feet tall and weigh more than 1,000 pounds, said Neil Noble, co-manager of the cemetery at 3701 Southern Ave.

The cemetery is operated by B'nai Israel synagogue on Lloyd Street. The damage is "painfully noticeable," said Noble, who is also synagogue vice president. "Words escape me as to the level of desecration and devastation one can easily view."

Noble and other synagogue members learned of the damage at Saturday services, after two maintenance contractors discovered the vandalism and reported it to the police Friday morning.

The incident is not being investigated as a hate crime, said Officer Troy Harris, a Baltimore police spokesman.

In addition to the grave markers that were knocked over, some tombstones were cracked, he said. Police have no suspects and know of no motive, Harris said.

"It looks like it was simply a crime of opportunity," Harris said.

Bill Bisesi, a co-partner with Charles W. Karp and Son Inc., a cemetery maintenance company, discovered the damage Friday and called police.

The vandals knocked over monuments in a central swath, from older sections to newer ones, Bisesi said.

"Who knows why they hit the ones they hit," he said.

"No 10- or 11-year-old was going to be able to push them over," said Paul Karp, the other co-partner.

Now the synagogue is left to try to repair the damage.

"Whatever family is left probably doesn't even know they have relatives there," Noble said. "Unless we can track down some family that we can charge to reset the stone, it's up to us to foot the bill for it."

The cemetery is surrounded by a chain-link fence that is overgrown by vines, Noble said.

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