By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Last Monday, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called for a domestic adaptation of Europe-based commission to fight anti-Semitism, after multiple acts of vandalism have damaged tombstones in Jewish cemeteries across the country.
Maloney pointed to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, which works to protect and preserve monuments and buildings in Europe associated with the heritage of U.S. citizens, but no such government agency exists to protect monuments within the United States.
“We spend time in foreign countries helping them preserve their cemeteries,” she said. “What about here?”
The announcement, made in Maloney’s Upper East Side district office, was prompted by recent damage that was discovered at Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn, although the NYPD has since stated that the tombstones were not toppled as a result of vandalism.
David Jacobson, founding member of the Jewish Cemetery Association of North America, disagreed with the NYPD’s assessment, however.
“The stone was face up and the base was level. It had to be pushed off,” he said. “It weighed about a ton. I can’t imagine any wind knocking that over.”
He added that since it seems that random monuments were affected in Washington Cemetery, this is likely an older, ongoing problem rather than a recent incident.
Despite the incident in Brooklyn not being officially attributed to vandalism, Maloney noted that anti-Semitic hate crimes are up 94 percent compared to the same time last year and she said that this has also prompted her to push for lesson plans on the Holocaust in public schools.
In relation to the increase of anti-Semitic incidents this month, Governor Cuomo announced last Monday that a man suspected of multiple incidents of bias graffiti at Pennsylvania Station was arrested and charged for committing a series of hate crimes.
MTA police department detectives had been conducting a surveillance operation relating to a pattern of hate-crime graffiti and vandalism in the men’s bathroom at Penn Station and police arrested Pasquale Vargas, 65, of Brooklyn on Sunday, who officers believe is responsible for a number of incidents of bias graffiti in Penn Station since February 18.