After hearing that a Jewish cemetery was vandalized near his home, a Muslim activist in Pennsylvania is pledging to once again stand with his Jewish neighbors amid increased reports of anti-Semitism.
Tarek El-Messidi, who with the help of fellow activist Linda Sarsour had earlier helped raise over $135,000 to repair toppled gravestones at a Missouri Jewish cemetery, announced that excess funds from that campaign will also be allocated to Philadelphia’s Mount Carmel Cemetery.
When he heard that a cemetery had been vandalized a few miles from his home, El-Messidi reportedly rushed to the cemetery to offer his support. In a Facebook video from the scene, the activist called on Muslims to continue to stand with Jews and other marginalized communities.
“I’ve been speaking to some of the rabbis at the cemetery ... and I’ve told them that we Muslims will help again,” El-Messidi said in the video.
“We’re in a very difficult time in the United States when people cannot even rest in peace after they pass away, where people have to be worried about their ancestors’ graves,” he added.
Last Tuesday, El-Messidi and Sarsour created a LaunchGood campaign encouraging Muslims to donate funds to help repair the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Missouri. More than 150 of the century-old Jewish cemetery’s headstones were toppled over during the weekend of Feb. 18.
Within three hours of launching, the fundraiser reached its initial goal of $20,000. The organizers then pledged that any excess funds raised in the campaign would assist other vandalized Jewish centers nationwide.
By Monday, more than 4,500 people had donated close to $135,000.
“We must stand together against these acts of racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia,” El-Messidi wrote on Facebook.
The New York Times reports that it will cost between $450 and $500 to fix each headstone.
The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for toppling headstones at Mount Carmel Cemetery. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Five added $3,000 to the reward.
The vandalism of Jewish cemeteries coincides with a rise in reports of anti-Semitism around the country. Jewish community centers have received five waves of phoned-in bomb threats since the beginning of the year. Although no bombs have been found at the centers, the threats have left Jewish leaders on edge.
The most recent wave of bomb threats happened Monday morning when at least 20 Jewish community centers and day schools received threatening phone calls.
Yosef Goldman, a local rabbi with Temple Beth Zion – Beth Israel, said on Facebook that he has been heartened by the interfaith response to the vandalism in Philadelphia.
“Acts of violence against Muslim and Jews will only make us stronger and bring us together,” Goldman wrote on Facebook.