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Jewish communities in the US have faced a string of anti-semitic threats so far this year

Over 500 headstones were damaged at the weekend at the Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

Rabbi Joshua Bolton surveys the damaged headstones in Philadelphia
Rabbi Joshua Bolton surveys the damaged headstones in Philadelphia
Image: Jacqueline Larma

JEWISH CENTRES AND schools across the US coped with another wave of bomb threats earlier this week as officials in Philadelphia made plans to repair and restore hundreds of vandalised headstones at a Jewish cemetery.

Jewish Community Centres and day schools in at least a dozen states received threats, according to the JCC Association of North America.

No bombs were found. All 21 buildings — 13 community centers and eight schools — were cleared by Monday afternoon and had resumed normal operations, the association said.

It was the fifth round of bomb threats against Jewish institutions since January, prompting outrage and exasperation among Jewish leaders as well as calls for an aggressive federal response to put a stop to it.

On Friday, a man was arrested on suspicion of being behind eight of the threats.

“The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out — and speak out forcefully — against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country,” said David Posner, an official with JCC Association of North America.

“Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities.”

The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are probing the threats.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the vandalism and bomb threats serious, unacceptable behavior and said the department will “do what it can to assist in pushing back … and prosecuting anybody that we can prove to be a part of it.”

“We are a nation that is a diverse constituency, and we don’t need these kind of activities,” Sessions said.

Jewish Cemetery Damage People evacuated from a Jewish community centre yesterday Source: Wilfredo Lee AP/Press Association Images

Hundreds of headstones, some of them more than 100 years old, were cut in half, local media reported Sunday.

A local rabbi, who was unnamed, told ABC television affiliate WPVI that the affected graves at the historic Mount Carmel Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia’s northeastern Wissinoming neighborhood also included those of one-time members of the Quaker and Muslim communities.

“We’re not interested in any narrative about victimisation and as heartbreaking as this is, we are strong together,” the rabbi said.

“I just met two congregants of mine who were here, one of whom has relatives. His way of responding was to go row by row and count, and he’s counted over 500 tombstones.”

New Jersey resident Aaron Mallin discovered the vandalism on Sunday when he came to visit his father’s grave at the cemetery.

“It’s just very disheartening that such a thing would take place,” he told WPVI.

Police say they are investigating the vandalism.

The Anti-Defamation League has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon posted a statement on Twitter saying, “#Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry. Full confidence #US authorities catch and punish culprits.”

Latest anti-Semitic attacks

The attack comes a week after more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri.

The incident prompted a Muslim-led crowdfunding campaign to raise more than $100,000 to repair the cemetery, and a visit by Vice President Mike Pence.

Among more recent attacks, vandals spray-painted swastikas on several cars, highway overpasses, buildings and an elementary school playground over the weekend in Buffalo, New York, The Buffalo News reported.

After remaining silent on the subject for several days, President Donald Trump today decried the anti-Semitic threats against Jewish community centers across America as “horrible” and “painful.”

Other groups have also been targeted. On Wednesday, a drunk white man fatally shot an Indian engineer and wounded another in Kansas City, screaming racial slurs and telling them “Get out of my country!”

With reporting from the Associated Press

© – AFP 2017

Read: The FAI’s new marketing guru has accused fans of anti-semitic abuse

Read: President Higgins: “We must share vigilance of not letting anti-Semitism spread again”

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