Vandals Topple Headstones in Another Jewish Cemetery

For the second time in a week, vandals with apparent anti-Semitic intent have toppled and damaged headstones in a Jewish cemetery in a major U.S. city.

The latest incident occurred Sunday at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia where an estimated 100 headstones were vandalized.

“It's criminal. This is beyond vandalism,” Philadelphia Police Capt. Shawn Thrush told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It's beyond belief.”

The previous weekend, more than 150 headstones were tipped over or vandalized in the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri, near St. Louis. 

There have been no arrests in either case.

As in St. Louis, Muslims in Philadelphia immediately stepped forward, raising money for repairs and public awareness in a show of religious unity. Rewards are being offered.

“We are deeply troubled by these rising and ongoing attacks on our Jewish sisters and brothers and members from our Philadelphia chapter are in route to assist in clean up, said Nasim Rehmatullah, vice president of national Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.

Mount Carmel Cemetery is one of four cemeteries at the intersection of Frankford and Cheltenham Avenues in northeastern Philadelphia. Media outlets reported that there was no vandalism at the other three cemeteries where people of Christian faiths are buried.

Philadelphia Mayor Kenney offered condolences and promised a vigorous police investigation. The FBI also likely will be involved because of the possibility of a federal hate crime.

The vandalized headstones at Mt. Carmel were primarily those of Jewish family members who died between approximately 1900 through World War II, the Inquirer reported.

“Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia,” the city’s mayor said. “I encourage Philadelphians to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters and to show them that we are the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying the organization was “appalled to see the desecration of another Jewish cemetery. These attacks need to end now.”

A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the anti-Semitic vandalism is a “source of worry.”

The Anne Frank Center — as it did after the St. Louis vandalism — called on President Trump to forcefully denounce anti-Semitic hate crimes.

“Whether or not [it’s] your intention, your Presidency has given the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society,” the Center said in a statement.

In a three-month period after Trump’s November election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,372 bias incidents, including anonymous bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers in 24 states. That came as there was an increase in hate groups in the United States in 2016, including a threefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups.