As more incidents of anti-Semitism take the national spotlight, about 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were overturned this weekend, police reported. This comes just one week after about 150 headstones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Missouri.
Aaron Mallin made the discovery at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday when he went to visit his father’s grave. He reported that three of his relatives’ headstones had been damaged.
“It’s just very disheartening that such a thing would take place,” Mallin said.
When police arrived, they discovered approximately 100 graves had been desecrated, saying they believe the incident occurred sometime after dark on Saturday.
“It’s pretty much intentional,” detective Jim McReynolds reported to The Washington Post. “We just have to find out if it’s drunken kids or an act of well,it is a predominantly Jewish cemetery, so wehave to look into that fact.”
The police have not yet revealed a motive or any suspects. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the crime, the organization reported on Twitter.
The incident drew responses from religious leaders and activist groups, as well as city and state leaders.
Philadelphia Rabbi Shawn Zevit called the crime a”hateful act, an attempt to create fear and to tarnish the memory of those who have died and attack their dignity.”
The ADL also posted on Twitter, “We are appalled to see the desecration of another Jewish cemetery. These attacks need to end now.”
In a statement, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said, “My heart breaks for the families who found their loved ones’ headstones toppled this morning. We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators who desecrated this final resting place, and they will be prosecutedto the fullest extent of the law. Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia. I encourage Philadelphiansto stand with our Jewish brothers and sistersand toshow them that wearethe City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Tom Casey both posted statements on Twitter.
The vandalism of Jewish headstones at a Phila. cemetery is a cowardly, disturbing act. We must find those responsible and hold accountable. https://t.co/6eM0G2tC4S
Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) February 26, 2017
Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) February 26, 2017
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect also posted a statement on Twitter, calling on President Donald Trump to publicly denounce the increasing acts of anti-Semitism.
AnneFrankCenter(US) (@AnneFrankCenter) February 26, 2017
“WE BEG YOU @POTUS @realDonaldTrump,” the group posted along with its statement.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is collecting donations to help pay for the costs to repair the damaged headstones. The organization’s CEO, Naomi Adler, said it will cost at least $450 per headstone.
“Did you think that the election of Trump, a president endorsed by the chair of the American Nazi party was going to usher in a wave of inclusiveness that would include Jews”
After the vandalism at a St. Louis, Mo., Jewish cemetery about a week ago, a group of Muslim Americans raised money to help fund the repair costs. The LaunchGood project, titled “Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery,” significantly exceeded its initial $20,000 goal and stated it would use some of the leftover funds to help the Philadelphia cemetery.
“We have just been informed of another Jewish cemetery this time in Philadelphia that was vandalized. We are currently reaching out to them to offer funds from this campaign to repair the damages,” the group posted on Sunday.
Tarek El-Messidi, an activist who helped set up the original fundraiser, said in a Facebook post on Sunday, “I want to ask all Muslims to reach out to your Jewish brothers and sisters and stand together against this bigotry.”
“We must stand together against these acts of racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia,” said El-Messidi, who lives in the Philadelphia area.
Since January, at least 69 bomb threats have been made to Jewish community centers around the country. And hate crimes in general saw a significant uptick just after Election Day, at which time hate incidents occurred roughly seven times the weekly average, according to the FBI’s 2015 hate crimes report and a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The FBI estimated that, in 2015, 38 anti-religious crimes targeting all faiths occurred every 10 days. During the 10-day period following the election, 100 anti-Semitic incidents alone took place, according to the SPLC.
The spike has led to increased pressure on the president to publicly condemn the attacks, which activist groups say he has not been quick enough to do.
Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, in a Facebook post described the Trump administration’s anti-Semitism as “the worst we have seen” from any presidential administration. He called the president’s response “too little, too late” and “not enough.”
“The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration,” Goldstein wrote.
Meanwhile, last week, a preschool teacher in Arlington, Texas, was fired after a slew of anti-Semitic messages dating back to 2013 including “Kill some Jews!” were found on her Twitter account.