The Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia became the second Jewish burial ground in the US to be desecrated inside of a week overnight on Saturday. Between 75 and 100 headstones were disturbed and damaged, said police on Sunday.
While authorities have thus far termed the incident “institutional vandalism” rather than an anti-Semitic act, three Christian cemeteries surrounding Mt. Carmel were untouched.
“As far as we know it’s limited to the Jewish cemetery,” said local Detective Jim McReynolds.
The damage was discovered by a man who arrived at the cemetery on Sunday morning to visit his father’s grave and found it had been knocked over. When police were summoned, they realized the extent of the destruction.
The incident took place less than a week after a similar attack on a Jewish burial ground startled the nation. Nearly 200 headstones were toppled and damaged at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, prompting widespread condemnation from political and community leaders.
Vice President Mike Pence joined Missouri Governor Eric Greitens – who is Jewish – in helping to clean up the desecrated cemetery last week.
“There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism,” said Pence during his visit.
In response to the Philadelphia vandalization, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf vowed to “hold accountable” the criminals responsible, calling it a “cowardly, disturbing act.”
Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney sent a heartfelt message to the Jews whose relatives were buried in the cemetery, writing on Twitter, “My heart breaks for the families who found loved ones’ headstones toppled. We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
My heart breaks for the families who found loved ones’ headstones toppled. We stand w/our Jewish brothers & sisters https://t.co/tBq9Mtxtqr
— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) February 26, 2017
He added in a longer statement, “We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators who desecrated this final resting place, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Last week’s incident in Missouri promoted President Donald Trump to make his first official condemnation of the threat of anti-Semitism in America, which has been rising in recent weeks. The cemetery desecrations come in the wake of dozens of bomb threats to Jewish community centers and institutions nationwide.