Vandalism Hits Jewish Cemetery

Assemblyman Charles Schumer (D. Bklyn) announced he will call a public hearing within the next week on the problem of cemetery vandalism. The 24-year-old legislator made the announcement after he visited the Washington Cemetery in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, a Jewish cemetery and one of the city’s oldest, and saw dozens of damaged tombstones.

“Vandals roam around here during the day and night,” Schumer told a press gathering at the cemetery which was also attended by relatives of those buried there. “It seems like it’s become a sport in the neighborhood.” He said he became aware of the situation at the cemetery when several of his constituents asked for his help two weeks ago. Based on his visits during the past two weeks and the complaints, Schumer has called for a state-wide probe into protection of cemeteries.

Washington Cemetery officials claim that vandalism has not been a major problem. Anna Lieb, the cemetery’s superintendent, told reporters that in the last six months “there has been little or nothing in regard to vandalism,” Schumer, surveying the knocked-over tombstones, said he would propose legislation calling for cemetery owners to provide a fund to repair vandalism damage, notifying next-of-kin when vandalism occurs, vandalism insurance be made available to next-of-kin, and for all cemeteries to be fenced and have guards along with some electronic warning devices.

The Washington Cemetery, which dates back to 1861, covers some 100 acres. Bensonhurst is a Jewish and Italian area.

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