Headstone at Jewish cemetery (illustrative)
Headstone at Jewish cemetery (illustrative) iStock

Around 70 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Winnipeg, Manitoba that were found toppled earlier in the week have been put back in place, but it is unknown how many were damaged.

On Wednesday morning, workers at Shaarey Zedek Cemetery in the city’s West Kildonan residential suburb discovered that the stones had been pushed over onto the ground, CBC News reported.

According to Ran Ukashi, executive director of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, the owner of the cemetery, community members are in shock.

“It's an insult to the dead and also to the living families who go there and they see this," Ukashi told the CBC.

The grave markers have all been put back in place. Police have opened an investigation into the vandalism. B’nai Brith Canada and the Jewish Federation of Canada have also been notified.

But Ukashi said it was not yet certain if the incident was simply vandalism or an act of antisemitism.

"How painful would it be to see your parent's [or] your grandparent's tombstone damaged that way? It demonstrates contempt for the people, the real lives that those people lived ... and it causes a lot of pain," Ukashi said.

The toppled headstones were in the older part of the cemetery, with graves dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Canadian Jewish News reported.

According to Ukashi, the vandalism damaged some of the graves, including chips and scratches.

Jewish Federation of Winnipeg President Gustavo Zentner said in a statement: “We are horrified that anyone would demonstrate such a profound lack of respect by desecrating the final resting place of our community’s loved ones.”