SADDLEBROOK, N.J. (Jul. 18)
Two incidents of vandalism last weekend were responsible for the desecration of about 90 monuments at Riverside Cemetery in Bergen County, New Jersey, according to cemetery and police spokespersons.
Both sources are currently discounting any probable anti-Semitism at the Jewish cemetery and leaning toward vandalism by beer-drinking youths. Beer cans were found in the vicinity of the overturned monuments, and local police are investigating youth activity in the area, according to the Saddlebrook police department.
The overturned stones were discovered early Sunday morning by cemetery personnel, who called in police to investigate. The vandals returned again Sunday night and did further damage in another part of the cemetery, which borders on the three towns of Lodi, Saddlebrook, and Rochelle Park.
According to a police official, the vandalism has “nothing to do” with anti-Semitism but is rather a “periodic occurrence” affecting other local cemeteries as well. Police stressed that similar damage occurred at a nearby Catholic cemetery two years ago.
The intruders appear to have scaled the fence, as there were no signs of forced entry, and no holeds in the fence, the spokespersons claimed. The investigation into the two incidents is in the preliminary stage, according to police, and local officers are “talking to kids” in the area. The police are not presently sure if the vandals are local residents or if they came from other areas.
Cemetery spokesperson Margaret Ritter said that although individual families are usually asked to shoulder the cost of damages, the cemetery will be re-erecting toppled stones at no cost to the families. Those monuments that have been damaged, however, will have to be paid for by families of the deceased. Approximately 90 percent of the damage was overturned stones. The cemetery is sending out letters to the families informing them of the damage.
Ritter said that a guard makes the rounds of the entire cemetery, which covers 90 acres. The guard tours the grounds every hour and punches a key to indicate he has performed his duty, according to Ritter.