Vandals cause at least $300K in damages to historic cemetery in San Bernardino

Rob McMillan Image
Friday, August 18, 2023
Vandals target historic cemetery in San Bernardino
A historic Jewish cemetery in San Bernardino has become a repeated target of vandalism.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- The Home of Eternity Cemetery in San Bernardino is a designated historic site, believed to be the oldest Jewish cemetery in continuous use in Southern California.

But it's now become a repeated target of vandalism, specifically to the mausoleum containing the remains of hundreds of people. The latest damage is estimated to be between $300,000 and $400,000.

"We have no reason to believe this is antisemitic in any way," said Greg Weissman, who is on the board of managers for the cemetery. "We believe it's pure vandalism; people looking for a quick buck."

Weissman said the most recent vandalism occurred in early July. He said the vandals appear to be targeting the brass plaques on the outside doors of the compartments containing urns. He said in all, 126 plaques were stolen.

But it's not much of a payday. Weissman believes each plaque is only worth between $5 to $10.

"They're just smashing and grabbing, if you will, and they're breaking the marble and grabbing the plaques," Weissman said.

Weissman, along with Rabbi Hillel Cohn with Congregation Emanu El in Redlands, believes the problem to be the growing homeless population in the area.

"It's supposed to be a place of rest," Cohn said. "It's terrible. And just to see it happen because people are down and out, and they need to get a couple dollars to feed a terrible abuse problem."

Not only have many of the brass plaques been stolen, but a few years ago someone set fire to the trees outside the mausoleum, causing severe damage to the outside of the building as well as the roof.

They said thieves have also stolen copper materials from their power supply, as well as tools used for burials and maintenance on the property.

Weissman said there haven't been any further problems since the cemetery hired nighttime security after the most recent incident. But they say the cost of overnight security is extremely expensive.

"Now we have another claim that we believe is worth anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000," Weissman said. "And we have no reason to think the insurance company is going to make good on what it's going to take to fix it."