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Controversy Swirls Around Jewish Cemetery Fundraising Push Led By Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour and a Muslim charity organization have been accused of not handing out funds raised for the repair of a damaged Jewish cemetery — but others defended the charity for doling out funds raised in the heartwarming interfaith effort.

Neil Price, the manager of the Golden Hill cemetery near Denver, Colorado, told the Algemeiner Tuesday that he still had not received $100,000 promised to him by Project Celebrate Mercy, an organization run by Philadelphia imam Tarek El-Messidi and endorsed by Sarsour.

In February, Project Celebrate Mercy started a campaign to cash for Jewish cemeteries after burial sites in Philadelphia and St. Louis were vandalized. The donation page went viral on the Internet, and eventually drew $160,000 from almost 5,000 donors.

Five months later, the group has distributed $50,000 to different Jewish organizations – $40,000 to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis, $5,000 to the Waad Hakolel Cemtery in Rochester, New York and $5,000 to the Chicago Loop Synagogue, which was attacked with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Messidi and his associates told the Algemeiner and other outlets that they were awaiting a concrete plan from the Golden Hill Cemetery and Price before disbursing the balance of the monies to that project.

Jennifer Goodland, a Denver-area activist involved with the Golden Hill rehabilitation effort, who connected Messidi and Price, defended Project Celebrate Mercy.

“You know, Tarek is raising money for multiple causes at the same time, and he had a lot going on with Ramadan and dealing with Islamophobia,” she told the Algemeiner.

Messidi did not return calls for comment from the Forward.

But Price told the newspaper he suspects the group is stiffing the cemetery and it may never see the cash.

“I’ve been doing this [non-profit work] a long time, so I know how it works,” he said. “You need budgets and time tables, and none of that is here.”

The controversy has roped in some right-wing Jewish leaders, like Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who called Sarsour a “fraud.”

Sarsour hit back in her own Facebook post, writing that “right wing, alt-right, right wing Zionists” were threatening her.

“I am exhausted. I am tired of the lies, lies, and more lies. It’s too much and it reignites the most vitriolic human beings on this earth,” she wrote.

Sarsour has been a lightning rod for right-wing criticism over her vocal criticism of Israel and opposition to the Trump administration.

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at [email protected] or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

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