$10,000 reward still stands in Jewish cemetery vandalism case

Incident happened one year ago, with anti-Semitism on the rise


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  • File Photo by Erika Norton It will be one year since the Temple Beth Shalom cemetery in Warwick was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti on October 10.



BY ERIKA NORTON

On October 10, it will have been one year since the Temple Beth Shalom Cemetery in Warwick was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Days before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, black spray-painted Swastikas, “Heil Hitler” and lightning-shaped "SS" insignias of the Nazi military police were found covering the walls of the cemetery near the intersection of Spanktown and Union Corners roads.

As the sacred holiday and the grim anniversary of the vandalism approach, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County is reminding county residents that they are still offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.

“One year ago, the Orange County Jewish cemetery was devastated by the desecration of the Temple Beth Shalom cemetery, where a number of Holocaust survivors are buried,” the Federation wrote in a statement. “Afterward, many people of goodwill and faiths joined together to mourn and stand up to hate in our community.

“Local law enforcement continues to work diligently on making an arrest,” the statement continued. “Now, it’s our turn to make a difference.”

Anyone with information is directed to contact the Town of Warwick Police at 845-986-3423 or the State Police at 845-782-8497.

In May, Warwick police Lt. Tom Maslanka said that both local and state police were still actively investigating the vandalism. At the time, Maslanka said that they were working on several different leads and conducting interviews, and had received some information from the public.

“This won’t conclude until we get to the bottom of who did this," Maslanka said. "So this is not going away.”

Rise in anti-SemitismThe cemetery vandalism is part of a larger surge in anti-Semitic incident within New York State and the tri-state area. Just over the state line in Sussex County, New Jersey, black spray-painted graffiti was found at the Airport Diner in Wantage. Along with the graffiti, the shed and outdoor freezer at the restaurant were also broken into, and all of the food products and supplies that were inside were destroyed.

According to an the Anti-Defamation League report, in the first quarter of 2017, there have been a total of 97 anti-Jewish incidents logged across New York State, a 70 percent increase from the first quarter of 2016.

In light of this increase, The Jewish Federation announced it has received a gift of $50,000 to create a new fund to combat local anti-Semitism in Orange County.

“The Zachor Fund, named in remembrance of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, has been established in response to a disturbing and growing trend in anti-Semitic incidences in Orange County since the fall 2016,” the Federation’s website states. “Since then, there have been multiple incidents involving students across the county from harassment, intimidation and bullying at schools, to distribution of hate propaganda using school listservs and the desecration of Jewish burial grounds. These trends mirror increases nationwide and represent a real threat to our civil liberties and Jewish communal life generally.”

With these funds, the federation developed a multi-pronged strategy and is working closely with the Warwick Valley School District to roll out a series of programs and initiatives in 2017/18 that will raise awareness of these issues, promote discussion and understanding and transform school cultures.

The activities will include professional development trainings for educators, school assemblies and the creation of a Stop Hate media campaign.

Nov. 5th lectureMade possible through a grant from the Kaplan Family Foundation, the federation will also be hosting a special community lecture by Mark Potok, a nationally recognized expert on hate groups and a former senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The lecture will take place on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. at the Newburgh Free Academy, North Hills Campus. It is suitable for ages 10 and up.

There is no admission charge, though for security reasons, reservations are required at jewishorangeny.org.

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