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New Zealand grave vandal offered an education

    The Jewish community in New Zealand has offered an olive branch to a vandal who pleaded guilty to desecrating a Jewish cemetery last year.

    Geoff Levy, the chair of the New Zealand Jewish Council, told the JC this week that financial assistance had been tentatively offered to Robert Moulden to help him pursue a university degree in engineering.

    Mr Moulden, 19, was among the vandals who painted swastikas and anti-Israel expletives on headstones in Auckland’s Symonds Street Cemetery last October. He will be sentenced next month.

    The offer to Mr Moulden was initially made by an individual in his own private capacity, Mr Levy said. When he heard the difficulties Mr Moulden faced — a tough childhood, no residence, reliance on welfare benefits — he invited him for Shabbat dinner.

    “He had mercy,” Mr Levy said, adding that Mr Moulden was “very upset” at the initial meeting with Jewish leaders and “tried to apologise”.

    Others within the small Jewish community are nonplussed, although Mr Levy said it did not discount “the anger and upset we feel as a community”.

    Mr Moulden has not confirmed if he will take up the offer.

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