- Views & Opinions
An attack on a Jewish cemetery in Rochester, New York, is the latest in an avalanche of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, including bomb threats at more than 90 Jewish community centers and schools around the country since the year began.
The Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, a northern suburb of Milwaukee, was one of those threatened.
As many as 16 headstones were toppled at Rochester’s Waad Hakolil cemetery on March 2, and an undisclosed number were desecrated.
On Feb. 27, about 100 headstones were overturned in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. Vandals damaged or tipped over as many as 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis.
The vandalism in Rochester came two days after a gunshot was fired into a Jewish synagogue in Indiana. No one was hurt. The FBI is reported to be investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Yesterday, New York City officials reported that the number of attacks and threats targeting Jews there is nearly double the number reported during the same period last year.
The New York Police Department has documented 68 anti-Semitic hate crimes since Jan. 1, and more than half of them were against Jews. There were 44 hate crimes during the same period last year, which also saw a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes.
New York City is home to the world’s largest Jewish population, and the attacks have come at a time when New York crime in general is down 9.7 percent.
The rise in anti-Semitism in the U.S. has been mirrored by Europe. Anti-Semitic hate crime reached a record high last year in the United Kingdom.
In the U.S., Jewish leaders and others have blamed the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump’s campaign for fueling the rising hatred. His chief strategist Steve Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a neo-Nazi website.
Muslim groups all over the nation have responded with supportive messages and offers to help the Jewish community. In St. Louis, two Muslim organizations spoke out against the vandalism of a local Jewish cemetery.
On Twitter, Muslims — including U.S. veterans — have offered to guard Jewish Community Centers, synagogues and cemeteries.
In Philadelphia, a number of Muslims volunteered to help clean up a cemetery desecrated there. In St. Louis, Muslims raised $100,000 online to help rebuild that city’s Jewish cemetery.
“We encourage our members to reach out to their local synagogue and Jewish neighbors to express their solidarity and support and to generously support the rebuilding of the recently desecrated cemetery,” said Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, in a statement.
Jews have reciprocated the kindness toward America’s Muslim community, which has borne an even large brunt of rising hate crime activity. A Muslim man who started an online fundraising campaign for a mosque in Tampa that was damaged in an arson attempt was surprised to discover that many of the donors were Jewish.
After arson destroyed a mosque in Victoria, Texas, “Jewish community members walked into my home and gave me a key to the synagogue,” Dr. Shahid Hashmi, a cofounder of the Victoria Islamic Center, told The New York Times.
Four Christian churches in Victoria also offered their churches to the Muslims to hold services.