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British Authorities Arrest Suspect in Gravestone Desecration at English Synagogue

A man has been arrested after gravestones were damaged in a Jewish cemetery in Kent.

Officers have been investigating the incident as a hate crime, with the damage believed to total about £19,000.

Kent police arrested a 41-year-old man on suspicion of criminal damage on Friday.

The damage is believed to have been caused between 15 August and 18 August at Chatham Memorial synagogue in Rochester.

Dalia Halpern-Matthews, the synagogue’s chair of trustees, said it was the fifth time the community had been targeted within the space of 10 years, with the last incident taking place in 2019.

She said the reaction from the community was one of “disbelief, horror, disgust”, adding: “You would like to think people have respect for other religions and for the dead, and for heritage.

“It’s a particularly significant cemetery, it’s the only one attached to a synagogue in this country.”

Halpern-Matthews told the PA Media news agency: “We do a huge amount to try to break down those barriers and this kind of attack overall doesn’t diminish our desire to break down those barriers, it makes us want to fight all the harder (against) the pernicious nature of antisemitism and racism and bias.”

A statement on the synagogue’s website appealed for donations towards synagogue security and repairs to the cemetery.

Halpern-Matthews said there were plans to re-install CCTV and improved security gates and fencing.

Supt Nick Sparkes of Kent police said officers were investigating the incident as a hate crime and that patrols would monitor the area.

The force was also continuing to appeal for witnesses to come forward or anyone who may have seen or heard the damage being caused, including residents and businesses with private CCTV, asking them to check for potentially relevant footage.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/aug/25/man-arrested-over-damaged-graves-in-jewish-cemetery-in-kent