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Two Muslim-Americans raise nearly $140,000 for vandalised Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St Louis

Fundraising campaign's target of $20,000 was eclipsed in just three hours

Benjamin Kentish
Tuesday 28 February 2017 18:16 GMT
Muslims raise thousands to repair Jewish cemetery vandalised near St. Louis

A fund set up by two US Muslims to raise money for desecrated Jewish cemeteries has raised almost $140,000 in a week.

Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi asked fellow Muslims to help them raise $20,000 to help rebuild two US graveyards that had been desecrated in anti-Semitic attacks – a goal that was reached within just three hours.

Within a day, $80,000 had been donated and, a week later, the figure stands at $139,000 (£112,000), with 4,610 people having given money.

Money will be donated to a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri, where around 100 headstones were destroyed, and one Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where about 100 were vandalised.

The remaining funds will be used to support any other Jewish institutions that are the subject of attacks.

On the fundraising website, Ms Sarsour and Mr El-Messidi highlighted the “message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina” – a seventh-century agreement between Jews and Muslims living in the city of Medina in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

“The Muslim-American community extends its hands to help rebuild this sacred space where Jewish-American families have laid their loved ones to rest since the late 1800's” they wrote.

“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.

“We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”

It comes after Jewish Community Centres (JCCs) in the United States reported a rise in harassment and anti-Semitic attacks in the weeks following Donald Trump’s inauguration. The JCC Association of North America said 21 separate Jewish institutions had received bomb threats on Monday alone, taking the total in 2017 to over 90.

Some Jewish organisations have accused Mr Trump of not being vocal enough in condemning the attacks but Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, said on Monday that the President “continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned by the reports of further vandalism” of Jewish cemeteries.

“The president continues to condemn these and any other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms,” he added.

Activists expressed hope that the success of the fundraising campaign would be replicated in the case of future attacks.

“I hope our Muslim community, just as we did last week with St. Louis, will continue to stand with our Jewish cousins to fight this type of hatred and bigotry,” Mr El-Messidi said.

“We’re in a very different time in the U.S. when people cannot even rest in peace after they pass away,” he said, “where people have to be worried about their ancestors’ graves.”

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