12 Days: Three Jewish Cemeteries Vandalized
Another Jewish cemetery in the United States has been vandalized, the third such attack in a dozen days in what many see as a noticeable and frightening rise in anti-Semitism and intolerance.
The vandalism at Jewish cemeteries comes at the same time as a huge spike in the number of bomb threats called in to Jewish Community Centers and schools.
Since the first of the year, there have been more than 100 threats to 73 Jewish institutions in 30 states.
The latest cemetery vandalism, just reported today by media outlets, occurred at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also called Stone Road Cemetery, in Rochester, New York.
Michael Phillips, president of the Britton Road Association that oversees the cemetery and another in Greece, New York, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that “there's no proof it was a hate crime.”
“I don't want to label it anti-Semitism,” Phillips told the newspaper. “I don't think there's any proof of that.”
Nearly 40 headstones at the same Rochester cemetery were damaged and vandalized last August. Police concluded, without providing specifics, that vandalism “was likely hooliganism, not hate,” the newspaper reported. There were no arrests.
The new vandalism in Rochester comes just days after an estimated 100 headstones were toppled from their bases and vandalized at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia. Police Capt. Shawn Thrush said the act was “criminal … beyond vandalism.”
On the weekend of Feb. 19, 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 reported in connection with either the three cases of cemetery vandalism or the assorted bomb threats. Rewards are being offered.
David Posner, an official with the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, told ABC News that FBI investigators have not identified perpetrators, so motives behind the vandalism are unclear.
However, Posner said he sees a “general rise in the level of intolerance in this nation now, and I think it gives the feeling that people can act with greater impunity.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan Greenblatt, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, told ABC News that the wave of bomb threats is creating “terror” for the people — including nursery school children, the elderly and teenagers — who face evacuation when threats are called in.
“This is absolutely abnormal, and it is totally unacceptable that anyone, anywhere, at any time could be terrorized because of their faith,” Greenblatt said.
In a related development, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY., asked the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday to consider waiving a privacy rule so that JCCs could to track the callers making bomb threats
“Perpetrators terrorizing Jewish communities across the country … should not be allowed to hide in the shadows,” Schumer said. “We cannot give these fear-mongering criminals protection when they are instilling hate and panic.”
FCC rules allow callers to block their own phone numbers, setting in place lengthy technological and legal hurdles for police to identify the source of the calls, Schumer’s office said in a statement.