Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecrated by vandals: reports

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 26, 2017 5:55 PM

(Reuters) - Scores of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia have been broken and overturned, media reports said on Sunday, in the latest apparent vandalism incident at a Jewish burial ground in the United States.

Police who responded to a Sunday morning report of vandalism at the Mount Carmel Cemetery found from 75 to 100 gravesites damaged, including toppled headstones snapped off at the base, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

ABC television affiliate WPVI said the damage was widespread and footage showed rows of headstones knocked down.

"I'm hoping it was maybe just some drunk kids. But the fact that there's so many, it leads one to think it could have been targeted," cemetery visitor Andrew Mallin, who had come to see his father's grave, told the station.

Mount Carmel holds hundreds of graves, many dating from the start of the 20th century to the 1940s, the Inquirer said. It quoted police as saying the damage was an act of vandalism.

Police did not respond to requests for comment.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Twitter: "#Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry. Full confidence #US authorities catch and punish culprits."

The apparent vandalism comes about a week after about 170 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Jewish community centers across the United States also have

reported a surge in bomb threats, but all were hoaxes.

Muslim Americans have helped raise about $131,000 to repair the St. Louis cemetery, far exceeding organizers' $20,000 goal, according to their LaunchGood website.

Some Jewish groups have described the vandalism and threats as the latest evidence that Donald Trump's election as U.S. president had emboldened anti-Semitic groups. His campaign last year drew the support of white nationalists and right-wing groups, despite his disavowals of them.

Trump delivered his first public condemnation of anti-Semitic incidents on Tuesday. The threats are "horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil," he said.

Some Jewish organizations have criticized his approach. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York called his comments "a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration."

Jewish groups also had criticized the White House for omitting any mention of Jews in its statement marking Holocaust Memorial Day last month.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell)