Swastikas and anti-Semitic profanities were spray-painted in red across headstones, walls and a sign at a Jewish cemetery in Ottawa’s south end this week.
“It’s an incredibly disturbing act of hatred,” said Mitchell Bellman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, in response to the defacement of the Jewish Memorial Gardens cemetery in the village of Herbert Corners, south of Greely.
Staff at the graveyard, which is known in the Jewish community as the “new Jewish cemetery,” said Friday that they were shocked when they arrived Thursday morning to find the damage to the entrance walls and eight headstones.
The staff, who had arrived to prepare for a burial later in the day, said it was the first time the cemetery has been vandalized in this way.
A graffiti removal company arrived Friday morning to clean away the remaining traces. (Chad Pawson/CBC)Ottawa police confirmed they are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
As of Friday morning, staff had cleaned up most of the damage, but faded red lines of spray paint could still be made out on the cemetery’s stone entrance sign. A graffiti removal company arrived Friday morning to remove the remaining traces.
An older Jewish graveyard managed by the same corporation and known as the Bank Street cemetery was vandalized twice two years ago.
Bellman said the cemetery corporation and the federation, an umbrella organization that unites other Jewish organizations, have been working with police to make the cemeteries more secure and reduce the number of hate crimes in Ottawa.
However, higher security won’t stop those who are really determined to commit such crimes, he said. The community at large needs to take responsibility by making it clear such behaviour is unacceptable, he said.
“If those people think that their neighbours and friends that they respect will ostracize them for this,” Bellman said, “they may be less likely to commit these acts.”