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Damage in Victoria's Emanu-El Jewish Cemetery being treated as hate crime

Jan 04 2012

Victoria police are treating the desecration of five graves in Victoria’s historic Emanu-El Jewish Cemetery as a hate crime, and are appealing to the public for assistance.

The damaged graves, marked with racist graffiti and swastikas, were reported on New Year’s Eve day, said Victoria police Const. Mike Russell. The cemetery is on Cedar Hill Road, just off Hillside Avenue.

“Unfortunately due to the location, there’s not a lot of evidence, there’s no videos,” Russell said. “So we’re really appealing to the public for any information they may have.”

Russell said the cemetery was fine when the caretaker left late on Dec. 30.

“We were called on the morning of the 31st, so it happened sometime over that night.”

Russell said the incident is disturbing for all involved, and doesn’t appear to be a simple act of graffiti vandalism.

“It seems like it’s more of a targeted thing, where it’s placed and what’s said.”

Rabbi Harry Brechner issued an open letter calling on the culprit or culprits to step forward, take responsibility “and make things right.”

“Come clean the gravesites, and when you are through take a tour with me around the cemetery and meet some of the people who lived through Nazism.”

Both the cemetery and Victoria’s Congregation Emanu-El synagogue date to the 1860s. The cemetery is the oldest Jewish burial ground in western Canada, while Victoria’s Congregation Emanu-El synagogue is the county’s oldest in continuous use.

Contact Victoria police at 250-995-7654.

jwbell@timescolonist.com