As many as 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were vandalized this weekend, just a week after a Jewish burial ground in suburban St. Louis was vandalized. The toppled headstones were found at the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in northeast Philadelphia, where a man reported three of his relatives' headstones vandalized during his cemetery visit on Sunday morning. Police subsequently found between 75-100 damaged headstones throughout the property.
Investigators believe the vandalism occurred some time Saturday night, and police spent Sunday dusting for fingerprints and looking for other clues. "We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators who desecrated this final resting place, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "My heart breaks for the families who found their loved ones’ headstones toppled. Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia."
Repairing each headstone is estimated to cost up to $500, according to Naomi Adler, the chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Adler told the NY Times, "It’s horrific; it’s a desecration of a sacred Jewish space." The group is accepting donations for the repairs, and the Anti-Defamation League is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the perpetrators' arrest.
Last month, 33 gravestones were vandalized at the Holy Redeemer Cemetery, a Catholic burial ground two miles away. Also last month, someone threw rocks through eight windows at a Philadelphia synagogue shortly before services were about to begin, the Washington Post reports.
Last Monday, over 150 headstones were knocked over at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, and numerous Jewish community centers across the country have received bomb threats in recent weeks, including one at the midtown Manhattan offices of the Anti-Defamation League. On Tuesday, for the first time, President Trump addressed the recent wave of anti-Semitism, calling the incidents "horrible, and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."
It was the first time Trump, whose campaign was celebrated by the KKK and other hate groups, explicitly condemned anti-Semitism. Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, was unimpressed, issuing a statement saying, "The president’s sudden acknowledgment of anti-Semitism is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration. When President Trump responds to anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this president has turned a corner."
Following this weekend's cemetery vandalism, the Anne Frank Center issued another statement blasting Trump for giving "the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society."
— AnneFrankCenter(US) (@AnneFrankCenter) February 26, 2017
Later on Sunday, an interfaith group gathered at the cemetery to try to begin repairing the damage. One local rabbi told a local news station, "This is people from Quaker, Muslim, Jewish communities. Some rabbis, my colleagues, we just heard about this thanks to your reporting, and came out here out of the desire to be in solidarity to show that we're not interested in any narrative about victimization and as heartbreaking as this is, we are strong together."
Tarek el-Messidi, a Muslim activist who joined the repair effort on Sunday, said, "Every human should be allowed to rest in peace, and no one should have to worry about their loved one's graves being desecrated."
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@MuslimIQ) February 26, 2017