Money being raised to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery, this time in Philadelphia

More than 100 gravestones were desecrated at the Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, less than a week after a similar vandalism in Missouri.

Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP
A Northeast Philadelphia police detective dusts for fingerprints on one of the headstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Dozens of Jewish graves were vandalized in a Philadelphia cemetery this weekend, marking what may have been the latest in a recent string of anti-Semitic attacks. 

Police on Sunday morning reported that about 100 headstones had been knocked over at the Mount Carmel Cemetery, with the vandalism thought to have taken place the previous night. The incident comes just one week after roughly 170 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in University City, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. Meanwhile, at least 55 Jewish Community Centers across the country have received bomb threats since January. 

The wave of anti-Semitic acts prompted President Trump to speak out for the first time last week, as he condemned the threats as "horrible," "painful," and "a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil." The statement followed repeated calls for the White House to address the recent uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes and widespread backlash after the White House omitted any mention of Jews in its statement marking Holocaust Memorial Day last month. The White House's silence, Jewish advocacy groups said, emboldened anti-Semites to act. 

Relatives of those buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery said they hoped the vandalism wasn't meant as a targeted attack. 

"I'm hoping it was maybe just some drunk kids," said Aaron Mallin, who first discovered the damage to his father's grave and others, to WPVI-TV. "But the fact that there's so many, it leads one to think it could have been targeted."

Authorities are doing everything in their power to find those "who desecrated this final resting place," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement, adding: "Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia." 

Last week, two American Muslim activists raised around $131,000 in donations – far surpassing their original goal of $20,000 – to help repair the Jewish cemetery vandalized in Missouri. Now, one of the organizers of that fundraising effort, Tarek El-Messidi, has said he will try to divert some of the funds raised for the St. Louis cemetery to help fix the damage at Mt. Carmel. 

"I think we need a dialogue, we need to ask each other how we can help each other, how we can be of service," Mr. El-Messidi told Haaretz. "A lot can be done, but this is a good start." 

"It’s unfortunate that it took a tragedy to bring us closer together, but we will continue from here," he said. "Whatever the extremists and haters are trying to destroy, we will go in and try to build." 

The Anti-Defamation League, with support from the Mizel Family Foundation, is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals. A local Fraternal Order of Police lodge also is offering a reward of $3,000.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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