New Brunswick, NJ – The congregations of the two synagogues hit by vandalism at Poile Zedek Cemetery nearly six months ago will hold a rededication ceremony at the Joyce Kilmer Avenue burial ground Sunday morning.
With almost all of the nearly 500 headstones that were toppled around New Year’s Day back in place, the rabbis from Highland Park’s Congregation Etz Chaim and New Brunswick’s Congregation Poile Zedek will lead a joint ceremony starting at 11.
“We decided on a dedication to memorialize this event,” Ray Morris, the president of Etz Chaim, said. “We are going to do the ceremony together.”
Four juveniles admitted to toppling the granite headstones, some of which weighed over two tons. About 60 of the monuments were fractured beyond repair. Damage was estimated at between $500,000 and $1 million.
The four teens, who live within walking distance from the cemetery, were sentenced to 100 hours of community service, ordered to pay restitution amounts ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, and placed on probation for 18 months.
Though city police and the county prosecutor initially investigated the desecration as a bias incident, authorities concluded that the juveniles did not specifically target the Jewish community.
Despite the abundance of religious symbols on the gates and headstones at Poile Zedek, the teens did not even know they were in a Jewish cemetery, the prosecutor’s office said after a three-week investigation. Instead, the teens’ vandalism spree was “the product of alcohol, teenage boredom and infantile enjoyment,” the prosecutor’s office concluded.