A Jewish cemetery at a synagogue in Kent, England, has been desecrated in the fifth act of vandalism against the synagogue in recent years.

Chatham Memorial Synagogue in Rochester said the local community has been left “appalled and deeply upset” and has left some of the small population of Jews in the surrounding area fearful of physical attacks.

Photos posted on social media show the Jewish headstones torn down and is being treated by Kent Police as a hate crime. The vandalism on Friday follows a string of similar incidents, which has seen faeces smeared on the synagogue, lewd graffiti sprayed on the building’s doors and repeated attacks on the gravestones

The synagogue has Grade II listed status with Historic England and is the only synagogue in Britain to have an attached cemetery.

Dr Dalia Halpern-Matthews, a trustee of the synagogue, confirmed the site had been repeatedly singled out targeted by vandals.

“Sadly, we are a small community and do not have the funds to erect strong security measures,” the BBC reported.

“Both the Jewish and the wider Kent and Medway community are appalled and deeply upset by the latest vandalism.

“This is the fifth time the cemetery has been vandalised over the last few years. We did have CCTV, but a separate act of vandalism destroyed that too, with one camera literally being pulled off.”

Howard Soskind, who has been a member of the synagogue for nine years, said the lack of respect shown to the cemetery and those buried there was “disturbing”.

A spokeswoman for Kent Police said: “At around 12pm on Friday 18 August 2023 Kent Police received a third-party report of criminal damage at a synagogue in Rochester.

“Officers have since spoken to representatives of the synagogue and this incident is being treated as a hate crime. Enquiries to locate those responsible for the damage are ongoing.”

According to Jewish Chronicle, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fear of being attacked in person was so great, several members stopped attending services.

“It did get to a point where quite a few members of the community were really nervous,” Halpern-Matthews said.

One person still feels unable to attend the synagogue in person because of the security concerns, she added.

While the synagogue is insured, it has taken a long time to receive payments to cover repairs.

After the last attack, which took place in 2019, the synagogue had to pay £19,000 for stonemasons to repair the cemetery.

The damage, which appeared to have been caused by sledgehammers, was discovered hours before Yom Kippur.

The shul is trying to raise the money to pay for new CCTV cameras and a security gate, as well as a ramp to allow for security access, and has a fundraising target of £25,000.

John Weiner, the synagogue’s president, said that despite the vandalism, there had been no instances of people attacking or abusing members.

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