By Ian Mason
UNIVERSITY CITY, Missouri — Sorrow, anger and bewilderment were the reactions of visitors Tuesday to an historic Jewish cemetery vandalized over the President’s Day weekend:
According to published reports, the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in this suburb of St. Louis was vandalized sometime between Friday, Feb. 27 and Sunday, Feb. 29, possibly on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath day of rest and prayer. The damage was discovered midday on Monday.
Tombstones were found toppled over, broken and smashed. The vandalism took place in a section of the graves that dates back to as early as 1893 and includes survivors of the Holocaust during World War II, according to a report by the local Fox News affiliate.
Police have not yet concluded if the vandalism is a hate crime.
A visit to the cemetery on Tuesday found visitors reacting with shock and sorrow. One unidentified man questioned if this was truly a hate crime or if it was students who didn’t know the implications of what they were doing.
Another man, also unidentified, talked about how his grandfather, who is buried in the cemetery, fought and died during World War I.
“What did these people do to deserve this?” he asked.
Noa Hahn, a student at nearby Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, noted that Muslim groups have begun a fundraiser to help defray the costs of cemetery repairs. The LaunchGood Muslim crowdfunding site reported Thursday that it has collected $116,724, far surpassing its initial goal of $20,000.
“There’s no reason why we can’t love each other,” Hahn said.
The White House spoke out Monday against what Jewish groups say is a rising tide of threats to Jewish Community Centers and other organizations, including 11 bomb threats on Monday alone. According to the JCC Association of North America, there have received 69 threats at 54 centers since January.
On Wednesday Feb. 22, Vice President Mike Pence came to speak at the cemetery, and said the U.S. does not tolerate hatred.
— CNN (@CNN) February 22, 2017
Meanwhile, construction crews moved in to repair the damage:
Scene at Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish Cemetery in U-City. Crews starting to make repairs to vandalized headstones. pic.twitter.com/JX0SmpIvVm
— Chris Regnier (@chrisregniertv) February 21, 2017
—Research and reporting assistance by GSS staff.
—Featured photo: Flowers left at a fence surrounding the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Ian Mason/GSS correspondent.