Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 20
July 2004 page 1 (of 4)
The following article appeared in Middlesbrough Evening Gazette Monday, July 5th 2004.
Our History Destroyed
Man's Heartbreak as he finds 68 Jewish Headstones Vandalised
by Gareth Lightfoot
A Teesside man has spoken of the heartbreaking moment he found his great-grandparents' headstones wrecked after vandals went on the rampage in the Jewish section of Linthorpe Cemetery. [Ed note: the Old Cemetery]
In that part of the graveyard, off Burlam Road, 68 out of 78 headstones had been pushed over and smashed in a shocking series of attacks. But police have said that the destruction which took place about two weeks ago, was not being treated as anti-Semitic.
Mr Reubens, 48, and his 12 year old daughter, Rachael, found their ancestors' stones in pieces in a scene of "total devastation" last Wednesday. The father-of-four from Ormesby said: "To stand there in the middle of this vast mess was just horrendous. Our eyes just filled with tears. It was as though they'd attacked us rather than the graves
"It's our ancestors. I used to teach my kids about my past and where they came from. That's been destroyed. You could count the standing gravestones rather than those which were smashed. These yobs had just gone wild. I think its more racist than anti-Semitic. I think it's purely and simply because it's something that looks very different, the writing on the graves was in Hebrew. They've certainly been picked out above the other ordinary graves. I think they need educating more than anything."
Inspector Geoff Elms from Cleveland Police said: "This is not being treated as anti-Semitic vandalism. However the area is secluded and we are aware of a number of youths who frequent the cemetery on evenings. Extra Police Community Support Officers have been implemented in and around the cemetery in order to monitor and control the situation."
A council spokesman said: "Any damage in any cemetery is disgraceful. When one particular section or faith appears to be targeted that is doubly offensive. I am sure that every decent person in Middlesbrough will join me in condemning the idiots who did this. We all hope they are caught quickly and are dealt with severely. Our street wardens are working closely with the police and have already been able to pass some useful information to them. We are vigilant and will be more so after this event. By their nature, cemeteries are difficult to protect and can't be policed 24 hours a day. That is why we need members of the public to be our eyes and ears".
Ed note: The stones were photographed by Bernard Bookey just two weeks before this destruction took place. Click here to see the Old Cemetery headstones. David Simon has spoken to the Mayor, Ray Mallon, who visited the Old Cemetery before discussing the matter in the Middlesbrough Council. We understand that CCTV surveillance cameras have now been installed at the cemetery in an attempt to improve security.
STOP PRESS: For a provisional list of the damaged gravestones, see
list part 1
list part 2
Damage to the Gravestones at the New Cemetery
Some stones have been affected by the passage of time and some by vandalism. The vandalism may not have been directed against the community. The area had become a haunt for druggies and dropouts hidden behind the Prayer House and the hedges. These individuals have been removed and the hedges pruned. In addition the Police and Wardens are being much more watchful.
Many stones were knocked over some months ago. The local Cemeteries Department has laid them back face up, and these were photographed by Bernard Bookey. Relatives should note that such stones will soon become unreadable and eventually disappear under the soil. Where possible relatives have been contacted, but the whereabouts of many is unknown.
The following stones have been laid flat
Joseph Denzil Silverston
Moses Levey Smollan
Shire Michael Garbutt
Nora Henrietta Reubens
Other stones damaged differently are:
Louis (Jack) Freedman
Headstone snapped half on grave