ST. LOUIS, MO. — A fundraiser for a vandalized Jewish cemetery is sending a strong message of unity and tolerance.
The effort organized by Muslim American activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi was launched this week to fund the repairs of nearly 200 headstones that were damaged and toppled in the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in the St. Louis suburb of University City in Missouri.
The fundraiser exceeded its goal of $20,000 so fast, it has expanded into an effort to support Jewish community centers that have been targets of anti-Semitism.
The vandal or vandals destroyed more that 170 headstones at the cemetery, according Anita Feigenbaum, the cemetery’s executive director.
Members of the community have been left rattled.
“A lot of people are coming out (to the cemetery) — they’re just interested to see, ‘Was their loved one’s monument affected by this?’ ” Phillip Weiss, owner of a monument company helping the cemetery lift the downed stones, told CNN affiliate KTVI on Tuesday.
This year alone, 54 Jewish community centers in 27 states and one Canadian province received dozens of bomb threats, according to the Jewish Community Center Association.
“All bomb threats this year proved to be hoaxes, and all JCCs impacted have returned to regular operations,” the association said in a statement.