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Swastika found in Jewish cemetery days before Yom Kippur

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Posted at 4:57 PM, Sep 21, 2023

ROSEDALE, Md. — A bright red swastika is a shocking thing to see anywhere. But in a Jewish cemetery, days before Yom Kippur, it's more than that, it's scary.

"It's just very unsettling and it makes us feel unsafe," Brad Kauffman said.

Kauffman's mother is the one who spotted it. She came to the Ner Tamid Cemetery in Rosedale to visit the gravestones of her parents, and grandparents.

It's a Jewish custom ahead of one of their holiest days of the year.

"This is just an affront to not only the entire Jewish community but also actually to the many Holocaust survivors buried in these cemeteries along Hamilton avenue in Rosedale," Kauffman said.

The swastika was painted over in less than 24 hours. Some of the graffiti is still here, and the cemetery chairman says it will be cleaned in the coming days.

Kauffman says he's grateful for the work that was done so quickly, but he says it doesn't undo the pain he and his family experienced.

"It's unfortunately been a part of life for centuries and it's continuing. But we need good people out there who are opposed to it to speak out vociferously so that it deters other people from engaging in this kind of conduct," Kauffman said.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened in the Baltimore area - which is home to a number of historic Jewish cemeteries.

Howard Libit is the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. He recalls an even more brazen act that took place two years ago.

"We had a number of gravestones that were marked with swastikas and that was really an awful incident," Libit said.

Copycats are always a concern. Libit says anti-semitism in general is on the rise.

"We're always thinking about it. Before these holidays, we're talking to our local, state, and federal law enforcement making sure there aren't any threats, and holding our breath a bit, hoping no incidents happen in our communities," Libit said.

Baltimore County Police are investigating this as a hate crime. Detectives are currently working to determine whether there's any security footage. They're asking anyone with information to come forward.

The chairman of the cemetery, Pini Zimmerman, says he is seeking grant money to increase security, and the rest of the graffiti will be cleaned in the coming days. He called the graffiti "offensive and disgusting," and noted the entryway that was vandalized was recently updated.