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Jewish Cemetery Vandalized Days Before Jewish Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish year.  A few select individuals in New York can only hope for atonement this year after vandalizing a New York-area Jewish cemetery just days prior to the start of Yom Kippur.

On October 9, just two days before the evening Yom Kippur began, a Jewish cemetery in upstate New York was found defaced with swastikas, "Heil Hitler," and the letters "SS," representative of the Nazi security force, spray-painted at the entrance.  Although none of the headstones within the cemetery were damaged, the vandals left their mark in conspicuous black spray paint.

The vandals, if caught, may be subject to punishment under New York Penal Law.  Section 145.22 of the Law defines cemetery desecration in the second degree as when "with intent to damage property of another person, and having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe he has such right, he damages any real or personal property maintained as a cemetery, plot, grave, burial place or other place of interment of human remains…"  As a class A misdemeanor, a sentence between fifteen days and one year can be imposed.

Alternatively, § 145.23(a) may apply when the assessed damage amounts to two hundred fifty dollars or more, thus constituting cemetery desecration in the first degree.  Cemetery desecration in the first degree is a class E felony, which is a fixed term crime with a sentence of between three and four years.

Without regard for any potential spiritual ramifications of desecrating a religious cemetery days before the religion's observation of its Day of Atonement, the vandals in question are most certainly subject to these earthly consequences.

Jillian Sexton


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