Muslim Activists Raise More Than $60,000 to Repair St. Louis Jewish Cemetery Damaged by Vandals
Members of the Muslim-American in St. Louis community have banded together to repair damages at a century-old Jewish cemetery in their city after nearly 200 headstones were found toppled over on Monday.
Families gathered at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, just west of St. Louis, on Tuesday to determine whether the graves of their loved ones were among the dozens tampered with over the weekend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
“It’s unbelievably disrespectful, just a shame,” Judy Sipkin, who rushed to the cemetery on Tuesday to survey any damage to her relatives’ tombstones, told the Post-Dispatch. “Nobody’s saying it’s a hate crime, but it certainly wasn’t love or a compassionate situation.”
Now, as police work to determine who is behind the vandalism, Muslim leaders across the state have raised more than $60,000 in a LaunchGood fundraiser to repair the tombstones. A monument company will determine which headstones need to be reset and which need to be replaced, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The fundraising campaign was organized by activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, who wrote that “Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration against the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery.”
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Police have made no arrested in the case and have not yet determined the vandalism to be a hate crime, the New York Times reports.
Investigators are reviewing surveillance videos from the weekend for any information about the incident — the vandalism may have occurred when the cemetery was closed for the Jewish Sabbath, according to the Times.
The incident has left the region’s Jewish community shaken, with St. Louis Anti-Defamation League official Karen Aroesty telling the Associated Press that “anxiety is high.”
In the wake of the incident, the Missouri House of Representatives in Jefferson City held a moment of silence on Tuesday, with Rep. Stacey Newman noting that the incident has caused “pain” to the St. Louis community, according to the AP.
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“The grief and the sadness of this act is overwhelming, completely overwhelming,” Newman said.
This is not the first anti-Semitic episode the Jewish community has seen since the year began. Fifty-three Jewish community centers across the country have received bomb threats, the Times reports. And More than 12 facilities across the country have reported repeated threats.