Show of support for Jewish community following Philadelphia cemetery vandalism

WISSINOMING (WPVI) -- A local Jewish cemetery was targeted by vandals who knocked over hundreds of headstones over the weekend. On Monday, a spree of bomb threats across our region prompted evacuations at Jewish community centers and day schools.

Both instances meant to instill fear among people of one faith, but are prompting a call to action from people of all types of beliefs.

The vandalism at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Wissinoming sparked an interfaith meeting at the Lutheran Seminary in East Mt. Airy. Their message was for all to unite, not hate.

On Monday afternoon, the Philadelphia Building and Construction Council announced they would replace the headstones at no charge. Manager John Doughtery says, in addition, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 98 has offered to install additional lighting and security cameras at the cemetery.

The statement reads:

"The desecration of nearly 100 headstones at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia was a cowardly act of anti-Semitism that cannot be tolerated. Out of respect to the families who were impacted by this atrocity, the Philadelphia Building Trades today offered to replace the toppled tombstones, re-sod damaged gravesites and clean the cemetery at no charge to anyone. In addition, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 98, for which I also serve as Business Manager, has offered to install additional lighting and security cameras at no charge to hopefully prevent such vandalism from ever happening again."

Beginning Tuesday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will begin organizing volunteers for cleanup efforts at the cemetery.

These cleanups will take place each day from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

"Representatives from the Jewish Federation will be on hand as well as up to 50 people per hour cleaning and working to help restore this important Philadelphia landmark," the Federation said in a statement to Action News.

The FBI has joined in the investigation into who caused the vandalism.

Earlier Monday, some at Mt. Carmel Cemetery Monday stared at the damage in disbelief, as others prayed.

The reality for many like Mark Weissman of Frankford is their loved ones' tombstones have been damaged.

Weissman spoke to Action News by his grandfather's stone which was knocked over.

"It's definitely a hate crime and I think it was organized," Weissman said.

He and some others tried to prop it back up, but it was too heavy.

For Adrienne Berger of Northeast Philadelphia, she came to check on her parents' stone. It was intact. But for the first time in her life, Berger says she feels unsafe because of her faith.

"I felt suddenly unsafe as a Jewish person," Berger said.

The damage to the cemetery was immense. Most tombstones were knocked over. Some, many years old, were split in half and can't be fixed.

Mayor Jim Kenney paid a visit to pay respect and help reset a stone.

"I just lifted one up with a guy, it's his grandfather's next to his father who was a Marine in World War II. This country is in a bad spot and the stuff has to be called out right away; it's got to be investigated. We got to try and find these people and lock them up," Kenney said.
Cemetery management says the number of tombstones toppled over the weekend is well over a hundred and still going up.

"I'm very upset about it. And we're going to do everything we can to rectify the situation," Rich Levy, head of cemetery management, said.

At this time, Philadelphia police are not calling this incident a hate crime.

The Jewish Federation says anyone whose loved ones' headstones were damaged should contact them for help.

A day after word of the cemetery vandalism sparked outrage across the country, a rash of bomb threats targeted Jewish Community Centers in the Delaware Valley.

EMBED More News Videos

From the Delaware Valley to New York to Miami, a rash of bomb threats targeted Jewish Community Centers.

The Siegel Center in Talleyville, Delaware, the Perelman Jewish Day School in Wynnewood, Montgomery County, and the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey all received phoned-in threats between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Monday.

Police responded and cleared the buildings.

There were similar threats in a total of a dozen states Monday.

The head of the Jewish Community Center Association of North America issued a statement saying:

"Actions speak louder than words. Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities."

During Monday afternoon's daily White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump condemns the threats and cemetery vandalism.

EMBED More News Videos

During Monday afternoon's daily White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump condemns the threats and cemetery vandalism.

"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," Spicer said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon released a statement on Twitter saying, "#Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry . Full confidence #US authorities catch and punish culprits."

Local politicians and lawmakers released statements on Twitter to express their sorrow and determination to fix the problem.

"My heart breaks for the families who found loved ones' headstones toppled. We stand w/our Jewish brothers & sisters," Mayor Kenney said.

"The vandalism of Jewish headstones at a Phila. cemetery is a cowardly, disturbing act. We must find those responsible and hold accountable," Governor Tom Wolf said.

"This is a despicable act of vandalism- these acts of hate cannot be tolerated," Senator Bob Casey said.

"Acts of hate & intolerance, such as what happened in Philly last weekend are disgusting & have no place in our society," Senator Pat Toomey said.

Community members are advocating for better security at the cemetery.

It's unclear how much repairs will cost.

Prior to John Doughtery's announcement Monday afternoon, The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia opened a mailbox at to raise money to help speed up the repairs of the cemetery.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up. It's goal was $10,000. By Monday afternoon, the site raised over $17,000.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.