Police in Philadelphia were investigating vandalism to dozens of gravesites at a Jewish cemetery early Sunday, with as many as 75 to 100 headstones broken or overturned.
“It’s criminal. This is beyond vandalism,” Detective Shawn Thrush told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s beyond belief.”
The attack comes nearly a week after authorities in St. Louis said vandals there damaged 154 headstones at a suburban Jewish cemetery. Last Wednesday, after Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called for volunteers to assist in the cleanup of the Chesed Shel Emeth Society Cemetery, more than 1,000 people, including Vice President Mike Pence, showed up to help clean up.
Pence, who was in the area to give a speech at a business in Fenton, Mo., said of the damage, “There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism.”
Muslim groups raised nearly $75,000 to help the Missouri cemetery, the Associated Press reported.
Philadelphia police on Sunday said they were alerted to the vandalism at Mount Carmel Cemetery in the city’s Wissinoming section just after 9:30 a.m. ET. WPVI-TV reported that a man visiting his father’s grave came upon the damage and alerted police.
“It’s just very disheartening that such a thing would take place,” Aaron Mallin said of discovering the damage.
Mallin said he hoped the vandalism wasn’t an anti-Semitic attack.
“I’m hoping it was maybe just some drunk kids,” he said. “But the fact that there’s so many, it leads one to think it could have been targeted.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called the vandalism “a cowardly, disturbing act,” tweeting: “We must find those responsible and hold accountable.”
Stacy Silver of Cherry Hill, N.J., said she heard about the vandalism and rushed to her loved ones’ graves, finding several toppled, including those of her mother and great-grandmother.
“Your stomach just drops,” Silver told The Inquirer. “I mean it’s just horrible.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia said it would begin accepting donations at its website, jewishphilly.org, on Sunday to raise money for repairs.
Reacting to the vandalism, The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect tweeted simply: “WE ARE SICKENED, SICKENED, SICKENED.”
Follow Greg Toppo on Twitter: @gtoppo
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