In St. Louis, Missouri, volunteers have embarked upon the massive task of repairing damage at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. The clean-up effort follows the toppling and defacement of almost 200 headstones, some of which were sprayed with swastikas amid a growing wave of anti-Semitic threats sweeping the nation. Although the spectacle is a bleak one, some rays of light have arrived from the Muslim American community — very familiar with its own issues of marginalization (to put it mildly) since Inauguration Day — which has come together to raise money for repairs.
By late Wednesday night, that dollar amount increased to over over $108,000 from over 3,000 individual donors. Reuters relays a statement from the collective donors: “Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration.”
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence made an impromptu visit to the cemetery grounds. He told a gathered crowd, “From the heart, there is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism.” Pence’s appearance followed criticism that Donald Trump’s condemnation of the threats arrived too late. In particular, the Anne Frank Center called Trump’s “Band-Aid” approach “a pathetic asterisk of condescension.”
Trump’s approach to handling the issue was called into question after he angrily dismissed a Jewish reporter during last week’s combative press conference. When Jake Turx asked Trump how he planned to curb the uptick of threats, the president told him to “sit down” while describing himself as “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
No one’s sure why Trump thought someone was “insulting” him, but to be certain, some of his ultra-right-wing supporters — along with Chief Trump Strategist Steve Bannon — have willingly cultivated anti-Semitic sentiments and helped them flourish.