LEADERS of the community will meet together following an attack on a Jewish cemetery in Whitefield.

Bury Council has called an urgent multi-agency meeting to discuss how best to offer support to the Jewish community.

A police investigation is ongoing. Police said they are treating the vandalism of Philips Park Jewish cemetery as a hate crime because of the damaged gravestone.

However, they have said the incident could have been a burglary. Metal taps and copper were stripped from the building, suggesting the vandals were looking for scrap metal.

Whitefield Hebrew Congregation's Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag said: "We are outraged at this attack on our cemetery and the values that it represents.

"We are saddened and concerned by the vandalism against our facilities, in particular the desecration of the grave of the great Rabbi.

"We welcome the coordinated support of both the police and Bury Council in facilitating meetings.

"We would like to thank the police and those concerned for their efforts to catch those responsible and for ensuring our security and safety."

The ohel, or prayer hall, and two other chapels were targeted in the attack last Friday, during which vandals smashed the memorial stone of Rabbi Yehuda Zev Segal — a prominent member of Greater Manchester's Jewish community.

Marc Levy, North West External Affairs Manager for the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “The targeting and desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Whitefield has understandably caused deep distress to the local Jewish community. The police are rightly treating this appalling act of vandalism as a hate crime.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to everyone at Bury Council and Greater Manchester Police for the exemplary way in which they have dealt with this sensitive and difficult situation.”

Sharon Bannister, President of the Jewish Representative Council, said that the desecration of Rabbi Segal's headstone will cause additional pain among the orthodox Jewish community whose members would visit the grave to seek inspiration and guidance.

She also thanked Bury Council and the police for their support and "swift response".

Today, representatives of the council, the Jewish community and the police will attend a meeting chaired by Cllr Tamoor Tariq, cabinet member for communities and safer neighbourhoods.

Cllr Tariq said: "I condemn in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent act of violence that took place over the weekend at the cemetery in Philips Park.

"An attack on one part of our community is an attack on all our community and we will work together to get to the bottom of this.

“I want to pay tribute to Greater Manchester Police who have moved very swiftly to investigate this matter as a hate crime, and I would urge anyone with any information to come forward at the earliest opportunity. We cannot allow the actions of some to deter us from our work in rooting out intolerance, prejudice and hatred in all its forms."

Philips Park Jewish cemetery in Old Hall Lane is a privately run, long-standing burial ground of a number of congregations across north Manchester.

Two windows and a number of sinks were also damaged, books were torn and pipes were stolen from one of the chapels.

The thieves — labelled as 'scumbags' by police — also stole CCTV equipment.

Bury Council leader Rishi Shori said: “This was a deliberate act of desecration in a Jewish cemetery, clearly a crime driven by hatred. The people of Bury will be horrified and dismayed by this destruction, which is not a true reflection of our borough. We will now redouble our efforts in tackling hatred and building strong and safe communities.

"The timing of this incident is all the more poignant, coming after Holocaust Memorial Day and Hate Crime Awareness Week, both times when our communities stood side by side in solidarity and friendship.

"The council is working with the police and the broader community to provide reassurance. I am hoping the perpetrators of this senseless crime can be found quickly."