White House condemns Jewish cemetery vandalism, JCC bomb threats ‘in strongest terms’

Josefin Dolsten

Philadelphia cemetery

Melanie Steinhardt comforting Becca Richman at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Feb. 26, 2017. (Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The Trump administration denounced vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats made against Jewish community centers across the country.

The condemnation, made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, came hours after at least 16 Jewish community centers were hit with bomb threats in the fifth wave of such incidents this year, and a day after about 100 headstones were found toppled at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia in the second such incident in a week.

“The president continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned by the reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries,” Spicer said Monday during a media briefing. “The cowardly destruction in Philadelphia this weekend comes on top of similar accounts from Missouri and threats made to Jewish community centers around the country.

“The president continues to condemn these and any other form of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms,” he continued, adding that “[n]o one in America should feel afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely and openly.”

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Last week, President Donald Trump — following pressure from Jewish groups and political leaders to condemn anti-Semitism in the wake of what has been called an uptick in incidents since he was elected — said “Anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop, and it has to stop.”

Trump came under fire earlier this month for his response to a reporter who asked at a news conference about the prior JCC bomb threats and what the government’s response would be to “an uptick in anti-Semitism.” Although the reporter did not suggest Trump was anti-Semitic, the president answered by denying he is an anti-Semite and called the question “insulting.” He ordered the reporter to sit down and did not answer the question.

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