Support is pouring in for vandalized Jewish cemetery

Rosenbloom Monument Co. workers from left, Nathan Fohne, Derek Doolin and Philip Weiss hoist a headstone at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo., where over 150 headstones were tipped over. (AP Photo/Jim Salter) Rosenbloom Monument Co. workers from left, Nathan Fohne, Derek Doolin and Philip Weiss hoist a headstone at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo., where over 150 headstones were tipped over. (AP Photo/Jim Salter)  

A suburban St. Louis Jewish cemetery badly damaged by vandals is getting a show of support from cleanup volunteers, well-wishers and financial contributors from across many faiths.

Muslim groups have launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in University City, Missouri, with a goal of $20,000. It has raised nearly $75,000.

Advertisement

The cemetery posted on Facebook that 154 headstones were vandalized in the damage discovered Monday. Many were tipped over. Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish, organized a volunteer effort to help in the cleanup Wednesday, and an interfaith service was planned for the afternoon. A large crowd attended a candlelight vigil at the cemetery Tuesday night.

Investigators have been reviewing surveillance video to determine who was responsible. The Anti-Defamation League offered a $10,000 reward for the vandals' arrest and conviction. Police said there is no evidence of a hate crime, but haven't ruled out the possibility.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to small business owners at a business Wednesday in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton, Missouri, condemned "this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrate it in the strongest possible terms." But he lauded people from across Missouri who have "rallied with compassion and support."

"You have inspired this nation," Pence said, not long before making unannounced visit to the cemetery. With Greitens by his side, Pence told volunteers, many of them clutching yard rakes they used to beautify the graveyard, that "there's no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism."

"I must tell you the people in Missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place, for the Jewish community in Missouri," he told the crowd, using a bullhorn. "And I want to thank you for that inspiration, for showing the world what America is all about."

Greitens later told reporters at the cemetery that President Donald Trump had called him Wednesday morning and wanted to thank the volunteers.

Karen Aroesty, St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the show of support from Christians, Muslims and other religions has been "extraordinary" but not surprising.

"That's always been true in this region," Aroesty said. "When things happen, the interfaith community comes together."

Aroesty said the Jewish community was reeling.

"The emotional impact on this community is something different than I've seen before, and it's really striking," she said. "It's especially hard for those folks who have several generations at the cemetery."

Rosenbloom Monument Co. workers volunteered to put the toppled headstones back in place and by late Wednesday morning all but a few were restored.

Rosenbloom Monument owner Phil Weiss said eight to 10 headstones were broken, all of them made of marble. Most of the others were made of granite and sustained little or no damage, he said.

"Granite is pretty tough," Weiss said.

The University City Council released a statement saying the city "is and always has been a community of inclusion—the people of University City will not tolerate hateful and hurtful acts."


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tim O'Leary
8 months 4 weeks ago

Glad to see the support the St. Louis Jewish community is receiving from Christians and Muslims. Vandalism like this is bad. But, it was even most egregious that some tried to besmirch President Trump and suggest that this father of a Jewish-practicing family and grandfather of Jewish grandkids, somehow was antisemitic. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, mostly a left-wing gay rights organization, should be ashamed of itself. Bearing false witness, just because you don't like the person for other reasons, or don't like their politics, is still wrong. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445170/anti-semitic-incidents-uni…

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Image: iStock, (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA) Composite: America
What ought to be the Ignatian contribution to the fight for racial justice, given our mission and our values?
Bryan N. MassingaleNovember 20, 2017
“To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material."
Gerard O’ConnellNovember 19, 2017
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 13 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Cardinal Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life could be helpful as the church grapples with issues like migration, health care and even taxes, some bishops say.
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 17, 2017
Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany in April 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
“What we need to do is just continue to live out the challenge of ‘Laudato Si’,’ which is to examine our relationship with the earth, with God and with each other to see how we can become better stewards of this gift of the earth.”
Kevin ClarkeNovember 17, 2017