Meagan DeGraaf-Staff Writer
Over the past several weeks, many cities have reported the abuse and even destruction of cemeteries—but the only ones under attack have been Jewish burial places. These occurrences are happening nationwide, from Missouri to New York, Philadelphia to St. Louis.
Each affected cemetery, whether near or far from others, is hit in the same way. Headstones are ripped up from their slots of land and sometimes smashed beyond recognition. Some cemeteries suffer the destruction of hundreds of graves while others see only a few headstones worth of damage. Police handle the damage differently in various cities as well. The New York Police Department released a statement after forty headstones in a Brooklyn cemetery were destroyed, but the response was not what the large Jewish community expected.
“Something is definitely not kosher,” said New York State Assemblyman Don Hikind.
The NYPD decided that the devastation of headstones was not a hate crime and not even vandalism, despite cut fences around the small area where the damaged graves were located. This is especially disturbing considering Washington Cemetery’s size—there are thousands of graves in the large area, but these forty Jewish burial spaces were the ones attacked.
This comes during a time of particular unrest in religious discrimination. Since Donald Trump’s election and his suggestion of banning all Muslims from entering the United States, many minority religious groups have felt oppressed, not only by their new president but also by his supporters.
Tarek El-Messidi, a Muslim man living in Tennessee, saw the damage in Philadelphia and could not begin to express his outrage and sadness at seeing the anti-Semitism and hatred. Within a few hours, El-Messidi had brought the Muslim and Jewish communities closer together to the tune of 20,000 dollars in donations. He raised money to help repair the headstones and allow the community to properly honor their deceased.
“To bully dead people is just unfathomable,” said El-Messidi, lamenting that this could happen in a country that promotes freedom and prides itself in its strides toward equality.
Police in many of the affected cities are still working to determine if these crimes were hate crimes—51 percent of which are annually committed against Jews—and find suspects.