Muslim activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the repair of a St. Louis Jewish cemetery that was vandalized over the weekend — and the response has been overwhelming.
The campaign, which aimed to raise $20,000, exceeded its target in three hours — and had drawn more than $110,000, more than five times its initial target, by Wednesday afternoon.
“We are overjoyed to reach our goal,” organizers wrote. “Any additional funds raised in this campaign will assist other vandalized Jewish centers.”
DONATE WHAT YOU CAN. Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery! https://t.co/HVWIvpZtCR— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) February 21, 2017
As many as 200 gravestones were toppled or damaged in the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery. The defacement was discovered on a weekend when 11 Jewish Community Centers received bomb threats.
In their crowdfunding pitch, Sarsour and El-Messidi appealed to cooperation between Jews and Muslims recorded in the Quran. They say any extra funds will go to repairing vandalism at other Jewish sites.
“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,” they wrote.
Update: This article was updated to reflect that the campaign exceeded its goal by a large margin.
A Jewish engineer in Georgia who rented his driveway to a film crew including Danny Glover has donated the proceeds to the anti-BDS group StandWithUs to counter the actor’s criticism of Israel.
Dovid Antopolsky of Sandy Springs told the Atlanta Jewish Times that he agreed to rent out his yard to the crew for a shoot in mid-February. Then he learned Danny Glover would be involved. Glover is a vocal critic of Israel. He and other American intellectuals signed a letter urging NFL athletes to skip a trip to Israel sponsored by the government; as a result, only five of the original 15 players went.
Antopolsky considered canceling. Then he saw his dilemma as an opportunity.
“I feel I also have the chance to make a statement,” Antopolsky told the newspaper. “When a star like Glover makes a statement against a nation trying to defend itself, I want to express my disappointment. Further, I don’t want to be associated with blatant misinformation.”
The shoot was for the film “Come Sunday,” about an Evangelical preacher who is ostracized when he says there is no hell. The movie is based on a 2005 episode of This American Life; host Ira Glass is one of the movie’s producers. Danny Glover will play the part of the uncle of the heretic preacher.
Antopolsy said he came to the idea after consulting with Rabbi Yossi New, the spiritual leader at the local Beth Tefillah synagogue. “I thought it best to move forward with the movie shoot and call attention to our objections and what step could be taken to turn it into something more positive,” New told the newspaper.
Earlier today, Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced visit to Chesed Shel Emet cemetery, the Jewish cemetery just west of St. Louis that was desecrated this past weekend. He was accompanied by the Republican governor of Missouri Eric Greitens — who is, himself, Jewish.
While many were happy for Pence’s visit, calling it a welcome sign of solidarity with the Jewish community from an administration that has drawn criticism for what has been seen as a tepid response to anti-Semitic incidents around the country, some St. Louis residents were less than thrilled with his timing and lack of notification.
The cemetery closes at 4 p.m. and residents reported that volunteers were prevented from helping in a clean-up that had been scheduled for the final hour as Pence, segregated from the locals, spoke to the national press corps.
VP Pence off in distance, volunteers being held back while they tour the headstones @kmov pic.twitter.com/JKAtfblqto— Emily Pritchard (@emilyjpritch) February 22, 2017
.@sarahkendzior Yeah, Cemetery closes at 4 &his photo op meant people were left waiting in line on Olive Blvd when they cld hv been helping— Glic (@Glic) February 22, 2017
But either way, the will of the people to help was served, as the thousands who came stayed after the VIPs had left for an interfaith vigil.
Pence, accompanied by Missouri governor Eric Greitens, who is Jewish, made an unannounced visit to Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery, where more than 150 headstones were toppled over the weekend.
The vice president, tweeted afterwards: “MO’s people are inspiring the nation w/ their compassion for the Jewish community. Thank you for showing the world what America is all about.”
Governor Greitens, standing next to Pence and speaking through a bullhorn, told volunteers at the synagogue, “we are going to demonstrate that this vile act of desecration is not who we are.”
Speaking earlier at a Caterpillar plant in Fenton, Missouri, Pence denounced denounced “vile” attacks on Jewish sites “in the strongest possible terms”.
His comments came a day after President Donald Trump made his most forceful statements against anti-Semitism yet, which critics have panned as too little, too late.
Some Jewish groups like the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York have blasted Trump’s late response to attacks on Jewish sites as “crumbs of condescension.”
“When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner,” director Steven Goldstein wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “This is not that moment.”
Turkey on Wednesday called on the Israeli government to halt what it called “illegal settlement policies” on Palestinian land.
Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan, made the comment at a news conference in Ankara. Erdogan has previously condemned Israel’s decision to ramp up settlements in the West Bank as an “absolute provocation.”
Israel announced plans last month for 3,000 more settlement homes in the occupied West Bank. It has also retroactively legalized about 4,000 settlement homes built on privately owned Palestinian land, a move that brought condemnation from the United Nations and the European Union.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Daren Butler; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by David Dolan)
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