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Vandals knock over Jewish headstones

May 28, 2009
By NATHAN BROWN, Enterprise Staff Writer

SARANAC LAKE - Someone, or more than one, knocked over about a dozen headstones in the Hebrew Memorial Cemetery in Pine Ridge Cemetery Friday night or early Saturday morning.

Cemetery caretaker Mike Madden said he discovered the headstones knocked over around 7 a.m. Saturday and set them back up later that day. Some of the headstones were scratched, but there was no real damage, Madden said.

Madden reported the apparent vandalism to village police, and six or eight of the headstones were still down when they arrived, said Sgt. James Law, the investigating officer. None of the headstones appeared broken or chipped, Law said. Police found an empty beer container on a lower tier of the section of the cemetery that was vandalized, and a cigarette butt on a higher wall. Police also found some broken flag sticks, but the flags, decorating veterans' graves for Memorial Day, were missing.

Article Photos

You wouldn’t be able to tell now that cemetery caretaker Mike Madden has reset them, but most of the headstones in the upper tier of the Hebrew Memorial Cemetery at Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake were knocked down late Friday or early Saturday, including the two in the foreground, for the Arlan and Bailis families. Only a few short, slanted tombstones in the front row were left standing, according to Madden, who discovered the vandalism.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)

Pine Ridge Cemetery is owned by the families of the people whose relatives are buried there. To maintain it, a nonprofit group raises money from contributions, plot sales and burials. There are two tiers to the Jewish section; the vandalism was on the higher tier.

One of the stones that got knocked over was a stone that memorializes 25 members of the Ring family that were killed in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

This isn't the first time Pine Ridge Cemetery has been vandalized. In June 2006, three men were seen cutting up a tree in the back corner of the property; they loaded the cut-up chunks of wood into a pickup truck and tossed the rest onto the ground, cemetery President Natalie Leduc wrote at the time.

Lionel Arlan, a former Pine Ridge Cemetery Association member, said there was a major incident more than a decade ago when "somebody came with a truck and a chain and wreaked havoc," knocking down a large number of headstones.

Cemetery Association Treasurer Kitty Peightal said the association started to have more people work in the cemetery a few years ago, which discouraged vandalism.

The Pine Ridge Cemetery is situated on what used to be the Moody family farm, the village's first settlement. The first known burial there was Sally B. Moody in 1852, according to a pamphlet put out by Historic Saranac Lake in 1988. The first Catholic burials were in 1891, and St. Bernard's Church acquired a plot there in 1894. (It later started its own cemetery, at the corner of Ampersand Avenue and Forest Home Road.) The first burials in the Hebrew Memorial Cemetery were in 1915, and it was dedicated in 1919.

"It shows the multiethnic attitudes of the town," Arlan said. "It was a very cosmopolitan town in those days."


Enterprise Managing Editor Peter Crowley contributed to this report.


Contact Nathan Brown at (518) 891-2600 ext. 26 or



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