Swastikas were found spray-painted on tombstones in a Chicago-area Jewish cemetery on Monday, the same day that similar symbols of hate — including the message “No Mercy For Jews” — were found scrawled along walls in Maryland.
Thirty-nine tombstones were defaced with red spray paint in the Congregation Am Echod Jewish Cemetery in Waukegan, roughly 26 miles north of Chicago, the Waukegan Police Department said.
Of those tombstones, 16 were defiled with large red spray-painted swastikas while the others had non-specific markings, police said in a statement.
“My immediate thought is with my parents and how angry they would be,” Larry Yellen, whose parents are buried in the cemetery, told FOX 32 Chicago. “My father lost at least four aunts in the Holocaust, his family was from Poland. They know more than anyone what a swastika means.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest chapter spoke out against the local vandalism and said it has tracked “a record number of antisemitic incidents” both in Illinois and across the country. Such behavior should not be normalized, the chapter said.
“It must be investigated as a hate crime & we’re in touch with synagogue leadership & law enforcement. The desecration of these stones is reprehensible & we all must speak out in the face of this attack,” the organization said in a statement on Twitter.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) and various local and congressional leaders also condemned the acts of hate.
“Seeds of hate lead to unspeakable atrocities if left unchecked. It is incumbent upon all of us to send a strong message that acts of hate have no place in our communities,” tweeted Mayor Nancy Rotering of the nearby Highland Park.
Meanwhile, police in Bethesda, Maryland, are investigating Montgomery County’s second incident of antisemitic graffiti in three months, The Washington Post reported. The county borders Washington, D.C., to the north.
A bus stop, a fence and a brick wall near the Bethesda Trolley Trail were reportedly found spray-painted with swastikas, nooses and the message, “No mercy for Jews” on Monday.
“It’s quite horrific; it’s completely unacceptable, and someone needs to put a stop to it,” Alan Ronkin with the American Jewish Committee told NBC Washington. “It’ll stop when good people decide that it has to stop.”
Antisemitic incidents have been rising in the U.S., according to a report by the ADL. The anti-hate organization found that there were an average of more than seven antisemitic incidents per day in 2021 — a 34% increase from 2020, which held the record for most incidents since the ADL began tracking them in 1979.
The Montgomery County Council earlier this month passed a resolution that reaffirmed its commitment to addressing antisemitism and protecting Jewish communities from acts of hate. It urged anyone with information about the recent vandalism to contact the Montgomery County Police Department and for the general public to “come together, stand up and forcibly speak out against violence and hate in any form.”
“There is no tolerance in Montgomery County for these hateful actions and abhorrent, violent imagery attacking the Jewish community,” the county council said in a statement Monday.
Police said they did not have any updates on the investigation Tuesday.