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Extensive vandal damage discovered at Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia

Extensive vandal damage discovered at Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia

 The scene at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA after vandals caused extensive damage to the cemetery.

The scene at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA after vandals caused extensive damage to the cemetery.

Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania got badly hit by vandals Saturday night. It took a lot of work—and strength—to topple all of these stones. There probably were two or more culprits involved, since many of the toppled stones are substantial in size and weight. Many of the dies are unusually thick.

This is an old cemetery. It appears to be nearly full. A news report said there were only 1 or 2 burials last year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the same thing happened at this cemetery in October 1982, thirty-five years ago.

This cemetery also has some risky areas. It's not safe for children. I mean... a child could get killed here. 

 It was the vandal damage at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia that brought me here. Besides the destruction, I also discovered that Mount Carmel is a dangerous cemetery, and not at all suitable for children. A child could easily push a stone on to another child.

It was the vandal damage at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia that brought me here. Besides the destruction, I also discovered that Mount Carmel is a dangerous cemetery, and not at all suitable for children. A child could easily push a stone on to another child.

If you think I'm exaggerating, take a look at this...

 A headstone at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. It is precariously angled.

A headstone at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. It is precariously angled.

Many stones need to be re-set and are leaning at significant angles. And many had already fallen to the ground before this vandalism event. You can easily see that some dies have been embedded into the ground from lying there for so long.

 A man representing a Muslim cemetery being interviewed at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A man representing a Muslim cemetery being interviewed at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

While I was there, the cemetery was active with numerous photographers and news crews, including CNN. There was even a news helicopter covering the story from the air. 

 Cemetery visitors documenting the damage with their smartphones. Mount Carmel Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.

Cemetery visitors documenting the damage with their smartphones. Mount Carmel Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.

If you are visiting the cemetery, please don't try to re-set these stones. You could damage the stones further, or worse—you could damage yourself. Let the professionals handle it.

I saw some news footage of men re-setting stones at this cemetery with nothing but raw strength. Five guys lifted a die on to a base and in the process two of the men nearly had their fingers crushed. I gasped when I saw that. They clearly were amateurs, and they were so close to suffering gruesome injuries

I was actually speaking with a stone-setter today. He said people don't realize how difficult and dangerous this work is, or how heavy these stones are. In speaking about the volunteers at Mount Carmel, he said if their "digits" got crushed under a stone, that would be it—every single one of them would be gone. "Gone," he said again, for emphasis.

"People see me do this and think it's easy," he said. But I've been doing this for 20 years! This is what I do every day. You can really get hurt doing this shit!" 

We spoke more as I watched him and his assistant set a stone. Yes, he had received calls about participating in the repairs at Mount Carmel. He said no.

Why?

  • Too dangerous.
  • The stones are too big.
  • They are packed too close together. (He said all Jewish cemeteries pack them in tight.)
  • No room to maneuver or to get a crane back there.

I know of a tradeswoman who just had her femur broken after a die fell on her. She does inscription work at cemeteries. This involves sandblasting dates and names on to existing headstones.

She decided to do a friend a favor and was setting a stone, which is something she doesn't ordinarily do. Somehow the die fell on her leg. It was a terrible accident. Fortunately help was nearby. She needed surgery and a rod placed in her leg. Nasty injury. The stone-setter I spoke with said she's probably done, career-wise.

"That's what happens," he said. "You make one mistake and you're not coming back. Your career (as a stone-setter) is finished."

As I watched the stone-setter I saw what he did differently. He used a lever and blocks to move this base and slant into position. These were tricks-of-the-trade I was seeing. These guys knew exactly what they were doing. It was clear.

Granite is extremely heavy. Let those who specialize in this sort of thing handle it. And keep children far away. 

Ordering a headstone through the internet could be a grave mistake.

Ordering a headstone through the internet could be a grave mistake.