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New Zealand Jewish grave vandal avoids prison

SYDNEY (JTA) – A New Zealand man who admitted to desecrating Jewish graves at a historic cemetery in Auckland avoided prison.

Robert Moulden, 19, was sentenced in Auckland District Court Wednesday to 320 hours of community service work. He also was ordered to pay about $2,500 in reparations.

Moulden pleaded guilty to a charge of willful damage in November for scrawling anti-Semitic graffiti on the graves. Another man, also accused of desecrating the cemetery, is fighting the charges.

During the sentencing, Judge Russell Collins said the community work should include work with Auckland Council’s graffiti team.

More than a dozen headstones in the Jewish quarter of the Symonds St. Cemetery were vandalized on Oct. 19 with swastikas, the numbers 88 – code for "Heil Hitler" — and anti-Israeli slogans.

The Jewish community offered restorative justice with Moulden. One family invited him for Shabbat dinner, and others offered financial assistance with his education.

"To your credit, you were willing to engage with the Jewish community and a more extraordinary outcome is the forgiving nature of the members of the Jewish community," Collins said. "Their forgiveness of you needs to be admired considering how wounding and distressing your actions were."

The Auckland Council has spent about $10,000 on trying to repair the vandalism, but some is irreparable, according to local media, with the damage estimated to cost some $23,000.

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