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Vandals Desecrate Jewish Cemetery In City Of Brotherly Love


Authorities are investigating the latest case of vandalism at a Jewish cemetery, this one in Philadelphia over the weekend. Bobby Allyn of member station WHYY reports.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: When local rabbi Shawn Zevit arrived to Mount Carmel, a Jewish cemetery in northeast Philadelphia, he knew it wasn't a random act.

SHAWN ZEVIT: If you've had a few beers and you go in and you knock over some tombstones, even if there's anger in your heart, that's very different than hundreds.

ALLYN: Police say late Saturday night, vandals entered the 127-year-old cemetery and knocked down headstones and destroyed other markings. Zevit says he counted more than 500 graves that were affected, but the initial police report put the number around 100. As the officials update their tally, Zevit says the incident can only be described one way.

ZEVIT: Hateful act, attempt to create fear and to tarnish the memory of those who have died and attack their dignity.

ALLYN: Nicholas Boonin's grandmother is buried at the cemetery. He walked slowly along the defaced graves, carrying a box of tissues.

NICHOLAS BOONIN: This is the work of jerks. I don't ascribe any particular intelligence to it.

ALLYN: Seeing the markers of so many Jewish people's final resting place destroyed had a visceral impact.

BOONIN: To just, you know, go through and see Idas and Rowes and Samuels, and - it hurt.

ALLYN: The Anti-Defamation League and the Philadelphia police union have offered cash rewards to help catch the perpetrators. But as Rue Landau points out, tracking down suspects in these types of cases isn't easy.

RUE LANDAU: The people who are committing acts of hate and violence feel emboldened.

ALLYN: Landau leads Philadelphia's Commission on Human Relations, which enforces civil rights laws in the city.

LANDAU: They feel that this is the norm - they can do it; they can get away with it. And in fact, they feel like they're protected.

ALLYN: President Trump has denounced the rash of anti-Semitic acts that have been occurring nationwide. But his critics say he still hasn't apologized for what Landau sees as his demeaning rhetoric during his presidential campaign.

For NPR News, I'm Bobby Allyn in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.