Restoration of vandalized Philadelphia Jewish cemetery begins

Marcy Oster

Philadelphia cemetery

A man looking at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Feb. 26, 2017. (Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Dozens of volunteers and laborers launched the restoration of toppled and damaged headstones at a Philadelphia Jewish cemetery.

Experts in grave restoration are overseeing the work at the Mount Carmel Cemetery, which began Tuesday, the local Fox affiliate reported. Two Philadelphia labor unions offered to provide free repairs and added security.

The work will include setting and gluing the stones, fixing the cemetery fence and increasing the lighting for security purposes.

The damage to about 175 gravestones was discovered in late February, days after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was vandalized. No suspects have been identified.

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Meanwhile, most of the 154 toppled gravestones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis have been righted and resealed to their bases, local public radio reported. Some 16 of the stones have to be replaced, which could take three months, according to the report.

On Monday, the directors of all seven Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis area issued a joint statement condemning the attack on Chesed Shel Emeth, the local Fox affiliate reported.

“We hope the perpetrators are found and brought to justice,” the statement said. “We as a group are taking action to ensure that our cemeteries are secure and sacred grounds for all. We thank the entire St. Louis community and the global community as well for your concern, support and assistance in our efforts.”

A crowdfunding campaign launched by two Muslim activists for repairs to the St. Louis cemetery as of Monday had raised over $162,000 with four days remaining. Its initial goal was $20,000.

The page said a $40,000 check has been given to the cemetery to cover all costs to repair and replace damaged headstones. The campaign also sent a $5,000 check to the downtown Chicago Loop Synagogue to help repair recent anti-Semitic vandalism there.

“With extra funds raised, we have decided to embark on a major project to restore a neglected and vandalized Jewish cemetery in Colorado which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Costs will be over $100K,” an update on the page said. “Learn about the story of this historic cemetery here. We are now hoping to raise a total of $200,000 to ensure we have the funds for this project while helping other vandalized sites as well.”

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