Muslims raise over $65,000 to repair desecrated Jewish cemetery

They tripled their goal.

CREDIT: CNN Screenshot
CREDIT: CNN Screenshot

More than 150 headstones were destroyed at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, in the past week. Approximately 24 hours after news of the attack spread, Muslims across the country raised over $65,000 for repairs.

Activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi launched a $20,000 fundraising campaign on Tuesday “to help rebuild this sacred space where Jewish-American families have laid their loved ones to rest since the late 1800’s.” That goal was not only met within three hours, but the total amount raised so far is triple the initial ask. More than 2,300 supporters donated $66,182, and there are still 26 days left before the campaign is closed. Additional funds will be sent to vandalized Jewish community centers across the country.

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Sarsour and El-Messidi cited the Prophet Mohammed as the reason for the show of solidarity, as well as historic partnerships between Muslims and Jews.

“While these senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina: an historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community,” the fundraising campaign reads. “Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America.”

Islamic Society of North America President Azhar Azeez also asked members to contribute to the campaign. “We encourage our members to reach out to their local synagogue and Jewish neighbours to express their solidarity and support and to generously support the rebuilding of the recently desecrated cemetery,” he said on Tuesday.

This is not the first time Muslim and Jewish Americans have offered each other support. With the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia caused by President Donald Trump and his administration, Muslims and Jews across the country have banded together to fight hate crimes against both communities.

After a Texas mosque caught fire in January, Jewish community members gave Muslim worshipers keys to their synagogue. “This is sad for everyone in the community and as Jews we especially have to feel for the Muslim community,” said President Robert Loeb of Bnai Israel, a Reform Movement synagogue. “When a calamity like this happens, we have to stand together.”

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Days later, rabbis were arrested for protesting Trump’s Muslim ban. “For us as Jews, this really hits us in the gut, because we remember that U.S. borders were once closed to us,” detainee and rabbi Jill Jacobs told ThinkProgress. “The language used [to keep Jews out]…is the same language now being used to close our borders based on national origin. It’s a ban that is both immoral and inhumane and that doesn’t keep any of us safe.”

In response to a fourth wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers on Monday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) offered a $5,000 reward for anyone who could provide details about the people behind the threats.

“It is the duty of American Muslims to offer support to the Jewish community and any minority group targeted in the recent spike in hate crimes nationwide,” said Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We hope this reward will aid in the swift apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators.”

Muslims and Jews have done more than the Trump administration to help both communities. Before he denounced anti-Semitism on Tuesday, Trump was deafeningly quiet about the spike in Jewish hate crimes.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said “Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom.” But the next day he criticized the Anne Frank Center for not praising Trump and refused to denounce Islamophobic violence.