Cleanup underway at vandalized Jewish Cemetery in Wissinoming

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The restoration project to place the headstones right and tend to the grounds and grass at a vandalized Jewish cemetery got underway in Philadelphia on Tuesday. (WPVI)

The restoration project to place the headstones right and tend to the grounds and grass at a vandalized Jewish cemetery got underway in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

It was back in February when the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia's Wissinoming section was vandalized.

Crews are working to restore close to 200 damaged headstones at the cemetery located at Frankford and Cheltenham avenues.

Tuesday's efforts are made possible because of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's project to restore the cemetery.

Addie Lewis Klein from the Jewish Federation said, "We needed to reach out to experts for the planning, and help us figure out how to bring the cemetery back to what it should be."

Conservationist Joe Ferrannini of Gravestone Matters added, "This is going to be hundreds of man hours for something 2-3 people did in an hour."

Ferrannini has been brought in from upstate New York to lead training sessions and oversee restoration work.

A mason crew brought in a crane, but space is tight. There are also portable units.

"You see how close the rows are that it's really tight to get equipment in, and when stone is on top of stone, there may be existing damage from the fall. We don't want to create more damage trying to safely lift it," said Ferrannini.

There's also a challenge with materials. Most of what crews are working on is from the late 19th Century, early 20th century, both marble and granite. Granite is more durable, but earlier on marble was used because it was easier to carve, yet it's more susceptible to environmental damage.

Ferrannini adds, "It weakens the stone and then when it falls, the granite stone lands on top of it. It really doesn't fare very well."

The cleanup will include repairs of downed stones and fencing. Lighting will be also installed to hopefully help in keeping away any future attacks.

This effort is expected to take about about two weeks. Then they're going to regroup and then they expect to resume work after Passover.

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newsphiladelphia newscemeteryvandalismNortheast Philadelphia
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