59 graves at Jewish cemetery vandalized with anti-Semitic symbols and language

Police investigating as hate crime

59 graves at Jewish cemetery vandalized

FALL RIVER, MA (WBZ/CNN) – Authorities are searching for those responsible for vandalizing dozens of graves at a Jewish cemetery.

Relatives of loved ones buried there are struggling with what happened.

“Every one of them … oh my God,” said Lewis Brooks, devastated after seeing the damage.

Brooks is still processing the desecration of his family plot – including the gravestones of relatives who escaped Europe during the Holocaust.

"My great aunt used to take me here,” Brooks said. “She is now over there with her family. And it has a lot of memories."

All day Tuesday, people slowly filtered into Hebrew Cemetery to see if their family headstones were vandalized in what police are calling a hate crime.

On Sunday, police say a cemetery worker arrived to find swastikas and anti-Semitic phrases scrawled on 30 or more stones with black marker. Other headstones were knocked over. In all, the vandals hit 59 gravesites.

The phrases “Expel the Jew” and “Hitler was right” were scrawled on headstones. One of the messages read, “This is MAGA country.”

The damage was so extensive that detectives spent much of Tuesday afternoon surveying it with the president of the local temple and the director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"We have to pull together, not be afraid, look forward and see what we can do," said Stephen Silverman with Temple Beth-El in Fall River.

While the community comes together, people like Lewis are demonstrating their resilience.

One man’s family plot escaped defacing, but he stopped by to clean off some others.

"The gravestone wasn't touched, but I will spend a little time to take some of the demeaning words off of some of the gravestones if I can," he said.

A reward is being offered for information that can help catch the vandals. Police are also looking for surveillance video.

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