Vandals Desecrate Dozens of Headstones in St. Louis Jewish Cemetery
Dozens of headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Missouri have been toppled in what the state governor described as an “act of desecration” amid growing concern about a US-wide rise in antisemitism.
More than 100 headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in St Louis were damaged or knocked in Monday’s attack.
Police say they have not ruled out treating the damage as a hate crime. Lt Fredrick Lemons said investigators were looking at surveillance camera footage to help determine who had pushed over the headstones.
The state governor, Eric Greitens, described the attack as a cowardly act of vandalism. In a Facebook post, he said: “Anyone who would seek to divide us through an act of desecration will find instead that they unite us in shared determination. From their pitiful act of ugliness, we can emerge even more powerful in our faith.
“Whoever did this slipped into a cemetery in secret to break things. We will stand together in the open to rebuild them, stronger.”
The attack comes after figures released by the JCC Association of North America, a Jewish community umbrella group, showed that more than 50 bomb threats had been made against Jewish organisations in the US since January, including 11 on Monday.
Donald Trump’s administration has been accused of failing to adequately condemn antisemitism. Jewish groups scolded the president for omitting to mention Jews or antisemitism in a statement about the Holocaust.
In a statement released on Monday, before the attack on the Missouri cemetery was reported, the White House strongly condemned threats against the Jewish community.
CNN quoted the White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters as saying: “Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The president has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”
The statement was a marked contrast to the response given by Trump to a Jewish reporter last week when the president dismissed a question about the rise in antisemitism as “unfair”.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner, a key adviser to her father. In a tweet she called for religious tolerance and protection of houses of worship and religious centres.
America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC— Ivanka Trump (@Ivanka Trump)1487635178.0
Hillary Clinton called on the president to speak out about the incidents of antisemitism. Trump’s former election opponent tweeted:
JCC threats, cemetery desecration & online attacks are so troubling & they need to be stopped. Everyone must speak out, starting w/ @POTUS.— Hillary Clinton (@Hillary Clinton)1487682544.0
The Anti-Defamation League has stopped short of linking the rise in threats to the Jewish community organisation to Trump’s election, arguing that not enough was known about the person or people behind the calls.