by Quentin Bet
Over 100 tombstones were defaced, damaged, or toppled at the Mount Carmel Cemetery of Philadelphia in late February. Unidentified perpetrators vandalized this Jewish burial ground, and though their motivations are unknown, authorities suspect anti-Semitism as the driving force.
This destruction occurred a week after a similar incident at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery in Rochester, New York, in which over a dozen tombstones were defaced. Though authorities initially suspected the vandalism to be hooliganism, the extent and deliberation of the damage point to a hate crime. A week prior to these incidents, another desecration took place in a Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis, where over 100 headstones were toppled. During his visit to St. Louis, Vice President Pence spoke out against the crimes before visiting the cemetery: “We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrate it in the strongest possible terms.”
In addition to cemetery vandalism, other forms of anti-Semitism have been on the rise. Since January, Jewish schools, community centers, and synagogues have received more than 170 bomb threats through phone calls and over e-mail. Though no explosive devices have been found in any of the targeted facilities, the threats have caused evacuations, confusion, and fear.
"While details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual's actions is crystal clear. These were acts of anti-Semitism,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief officer of the Anti-Defamation League. “These threats targeted Jewish institutions, which were calculated to sow fear and anxiety and put the entire Jewish community on high alert.''
Many criticized President Trump for remaining silent on the issue, especially after his failure to acknowledge anti-Semitism on Holocaust Remembrance Day. President Trump later spoke out against the recent crimes, saying “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible…. And a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
Earlier this month, a 31-year-old Missouri man was arrested for making at least eight of the bomb threats as part of a scheme to get revenge on a former girlfriend. A large portion of the other threatening phone calls were fabricated through sophisticated computer technology, obscuring the culprit’s voice and making identification near impossible. On March 23, after thorough FBI investigation, authorities arrested a primary suspect, a 19-year-old Jewish male.
The teen, whose identity has yet to be revealed, has dual American-Israeli citizenship and was arrested while in Israel. Police are unsure of the suspect’s motives, though the teen is described as having exhibited behavioral issues in the past. Authorities believe he is also responsible for fake bomb threats made to Jewish facilities in New Zealand and Australia.