Jewish community offers to help teen who desecrated New Zealand cemetery

SYDNEY (JTA) – A New Zealand teen who pleaded guilty to desecrating a Jewish cemetery in Auckland was offered assistance by the Jewish community.

Robert Moulden, 19, who was among the vandals who painted swastikas and anti-Israel expletives on historic headstones in the Symonds St. Cemetery last October, will be sentenced next month.

A second man, Christian Landmark, 20, appeared in the Auckland District Court on Jan. 22 and pleaded not guilty to a charge of intentional damage. He is scheduled to reappear in court in June. Police withdrew a charge against a third man.

Geoff Levy, chair of the New Zealand Jewish Council, confirmed to the local media this week that Moulden had attended a restorative justice session in which offers were made to pay for his university fees.

Moulden lives in a hostel and has no family support, according to a report by Fairfax Media. During the program he was taught about the Holocaust and attended a Friday night Shabbat dinner, the report said.

"When we asked him what he wanted to do with himself, he expressed a desire to follow engineering if he could," Levy told Fairfax Media. "We’ve given this young man a chance to respond to the offers, and we’ve appointed someone to liaise with him to see whether he can be helped or wants to be helped.”

Others, however, within the small Jewish community are nonplussed by the olive branch.

Levy added, “It doesn’t derogate from the need for him to pay a penalty for what he has done, or the need to restore the cemetery or the anger and upset we feel as a community."

Moulden has not confirmed if he will accept the offer.
 
 
 

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