A Hebrew prayer sometimes recited in Jewish cemeteries is the El Maleh Rahamm, which means ‘God full of compassion.’ It invokes the images of divine wings, spread protectively over the soul of the deceased. May we find our common humanity under the loving protection of God.
Our hearts break over the anti-Semitic acts recently reported in the national news. We learn of yet another wave of bomb threats against Jewish schools and centers. These so far appear to be hoaxes. But the hundred headstones overturned in the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia, discovered Sunday morning, was no hoax. This was only a few days after a similar act of vandalism committed at Chesed Shel Emet Cemetery in University City, Missouri. Police are seeking the perpetrators. But whatever the motives behind these acts, they help channel and foment hatred and fear. Anti-Semites have often chosen this surreptitious method to vent their unholy anger.
We stand firmly with our Jewish brothers and sisters against these acts. We mourn the cruelty of this behavior and condemn it, even as we hope for remorse in the perpetrators. We deplore the desecration of any cemetery. These are hallowed places of memory and hope-memory of the beloved deceased and hope in the life to come. The Prophet Muhammed commended cemetery visits for putting us in mind of the afterlife. The Talmud, a sacred text of the Jewish people, likens tombstones to palaces. Just as for both Muslims and Jews, to take a life is to destroy a world, so to overturn a tombstone is to raze a home.
We especially feel for the suffering of our Jewish friends. It is not just that we are bound together in descent from Abraham. The Quran proclaims to all the earth: “O Children of Israel, remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I have preferred you over the rest of the peoples” (2:47). We ponder these words in humility. They bind us in friendship and deep regard for the Jewish people. We suffer with their sufferings, as they have most recently with ours over immigration bans. And we call, with them, for our highest government officials repeatedly to condemn the scourge of anti- Semitism until it finally disappears. May the harmony God meant for us to know across all our differences rise up and prevail.