Muslim support pours in for damaged Jewish cemetery
University City, Mo. — 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.
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 say there is no evidence of a hate crime, but haven’t ruled out the possibility.
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.”