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home : news : national news free July 26, 2017

2/21/2017 2:56:00 PM
Headstones desecrated in Jewish U City cemetery

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vandals have damaged or tipped over as many as 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis, leaving the region's Jewish community shaken and anxious.

No arrests have been made in attacks that happened late Sunday or early Monday at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri. Investigators have not yet determined if it was a hate crime or vandalism, but the impact on the Jewish community is the same, said Karen Aroesty, St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"Anxiety is high," Aroesty said today. "Your loved ones are there. Your memories are there." Police Lt. Fredrick Lemons said investigators are looking at surveillance camera footage to help determine who pushed over the headstones at the cemetery that opened in 1893.

Aroesty said many of tipped over stones were broken, but that there didn't appear to be any graffiti. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish, posted a statement on Facebook late Monday night calling the vandalism "despicable" and "cowardly." "Anyone who would seek to divide us through an act of desecration will find instead that they unite us in shared determination," he said. "From their pitiful act of ugliness, we can emerge even more powerful in our faith."

Messages to the cemetery director were not immediately returned today. The cemetery's Facebook page said it hopes to publish names of those with damaged headstones by Wednesday morning.

Aroesty said the Jewish Community Center in suburban St. Louis and another in Overland Park, Kansas, near Kansas City, were both victims of bomb threats last month and last fall. She said other Jewish institutions in the region have also received threats in recent months.

She urged President Donald Trump to take action to show support for Jewish people. "What is the government's position relative to rising anti-Semitism and intolerance generally, and what will the government do to put a stop to it?" Aroesty asked. "We've been asking that for several weeks now."

During a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Tuesday morning, Trump denounced the recent threats against the Jewish community, calling them, " horrible and ... painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil." The president did not say what action he plans to take.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

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