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Taking a stand

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By Optic Editorial Board

Las Vegas took a stand Sunday — against senseless vandalism, and even the hint of intolerance.

Some 80 people turned out for a public meeting this past weekend to discuss the vandalism at the Montefiore and Masonic cemeteries that took place in late June. The Montefiore cemetery — a Jewish cemetery at the outskirts of the Masons’ — sustained the most damage, which led to speculation that the act was anti-Semitic.

However, that’s probably not the case, Las Vegas Police Commander Mack Allingham told the crowd. Instead, he said it appears to have been a group of youths who were partying in the area.

If that’s the case, it would suggest that it’s not so much a matter of hate but of ignorance. Any kids who would do such a thing probably didn’t fully understand how offensive, and how hurtful, their act of violence against our heritage would be.

Catching the perpetrators of this insensitive crime may be a matter for law enforcement, but the lessons they learn from it all will be up to the community. Las Vegas resident Katrina Immerman, who has relatives buried in the Jewish cemetery, suggested they be required to give up their Saturdays and work in the cemeteries. We think that’s a good idea, and would further suggest that their supervisor be someone who can teach them along the way about what each of those gravesites represents. If kids are found to have done this, we hope their “punishment” will teach them just how harmful their deeds were to, not the dead, but the living.

To the credit of many in Las Vegas, just the possibility that this attack was intended against Jews gave rise to an uplifting outcry. Just the thought of a racist motivation was enough to set off alarms not simply among Jews but throughout our city. Seems the only sentiment in this town that most of our citizenry won’t tolerate is, well, intolerance.

Las Vegas is a diverse community. All kinds of people have found their way here, and have stayed because it’s a place they could call home. It’s a place where divisions exist along with acceptance; a place where people live and let live. It’s also a place that must be protected from those who seek to spread their particular brand of hatred, whether it’s against the Jews, Hispanics, Anglos, or anyone else.

Yes, there are haters among us, but they are vastly outnumbered by those who choose to love their neighbors instead.

Now let’s go repair our wonderful heritage. Let’s go fix those cemeteries.