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Vandals smash headstones at Chatham Memorial Synagogue’s cemetery in Rochester High Street

Vandals have gone on a wrecking spree causing thousands of pounds of damage in the cemetery of a synagogue.

A trail of destruction was left in the Jewish burial ground of Chatham Memorial Synagogue with headstones of loved ones smashed and knocked down.

Police are treating it as a hate crime.

Vandals have smashed tomb stones at Chatham Memorial Synagogue burial ground
Vandals have smashed tomb stones at Chatham Memorial Synagogue burial ground

It’s believed yobs targeted the historic places of worship in Rochester High Street on Thursday night or early Friday morning.

It’s the fifth time the graveyard, which has just gained Grade II-listed status from Historic England, has been hit in recent years.

In other attacks, the CCTV cable was cut from the wall, excrement was smeared on the walls and door, and graffiti including swastikas was daubed over furniture. Lead was also stripped from the roof.

Dalia Halpern-Matthews, a trustee of the synagogue, said the latest “heartbreaking” incident had deeply upset the tight-knit Jewish community in Medway,

She said: “It’s difficult to say if it’s Jewish-related. But I have not heard of any other religious buildings in the area being vandalised.

Synagogue trustee Dalia Halpern-Matthews
Synagogue trustee Dalia Halpern-Matthews

“It has to be targeted.

“We need to step up our security but we simply don’t have the funds.”

In the past, the Community Security Trust, which provides protection for Jewish schools and synagogues, has helped to pay for a security guard.

She said: “People were feeling vulnerable and some were understandably too nervous to come to services.

“We still have not paid for the CCTV repairs and cannot afford security gates.

Chatham Memorial Synagogue
Chatham Memorial Synagogue

“The CST will pay up to half but we don’t have the other 50%.”

Mrs Halpern-Matthews added that as both the synagogue and cemetery were Grade II listed, repairs had to be carried out properly and sympathetically.

She said: “We are hoping that insurance will pay out some money, but we still have not received anything from the £19,000 worth of damage caused in another attack.”

The vandalism was discovered on Friday morning by another member of the congregation, Howard Soskind, who is carrying out restoration work.

The latest damage has also been put at around £19,000.

A police spokesman said: “At around 12pm on Friday, August 18, Kent Police received a third-party report of criminal damage at a synagogue in Rochester.

“Officers have since spoken to representatives of the synagogue and this incident is being treated as a hate crime. Inquiries to locate those responsible for the damage are ongoing.”

In a later statement, Chief Inspector Trevor Jenner, Kent Police’s District Commander for Medway, said: “This type of incident is thankfully very rare, but has understandably caused a great deal of distress in the local community. We are therefore very keen to identify the person responsible and bring them to justice.

“We are investigating this as a hate crime and local patrols will continue to monitor the area. If anyone has any concerns, I would encourage them to speak to officers and PCSOs when they see them.

“I’d like to hear from anyone who may have seen or heard the damage being caused. It is likely that the suspect would have caused a lot of noise while committing this offence and there are residential buildings nearby so it’s possible somebody heard the incident but may not have realised what was happening.

“We have spoken to those responsible for the cemetery and will continue to offer crime prevention advice and the investigation is ongoing.”

Anyone who has information is urged to call 01634 792209 quoting crime reference 46/152042/23.

You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or complete the online form on their website.

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