American Muslims Crowdfund To Repair Jewish Cemetery

Fundraising organizer Linda Sarsour has received messages of love from Muslims and Jews around the country, as well as threats from conservative trolls

Feb 22, 2017 at 8:43 AM ET

American Muslim activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek el-Messidi are fundraising to help rebuild a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri where officials found more than 170 vandalized headstones on Monday.

Three hours after launching the online crowdfunding campaign, Sarsour and el-Messidi had already far surpassed their original target of $20,000. As of Wednesday morning, they had raised $59,234 from 2,116 supporters. The funds will be used to repair damage at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery, and any additional funds raised would be used to “assist other vandalized Jewish centers nationwide,” the organizers said.

“Solidarity is a verb not a noun,” wrote Sarsour on Facebook. “We hope this campaign brought some healing for the Jewish families who have loved ones laid to rest at the St. Louis cemetery. #Solidarity#RestInPeace.”

Sarsour, a Palestinian-American woman is the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. She was among the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington last month. Since launching the “Muslims Unite To Repair Jewish Cemetery” project, she’s received messages of love and pride from Jews and Muslims throughout the country.

“This queer feminist anti-racist Jew is crying. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. #Solidarity,” commented Ruth Goldman on Sarsour’s Facebook post. “MashAllah, This is how we make America Great again. It’s unity and love that will prevail not hate and bigotry,” posted Robyn Sadoon, using the Arabic phrase to express praise and gratitude.

But the publicity has also brought out the trolls, many of whom have been attacking Sarsour for her religion. Rumors have been circulating in conservative media that she has ties to the Islamist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip and that she is trying to impose sharia law in the United States.

The New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is currently investigating a threat against Sarsour from a Brooklyn man who has tried to find her address through social media, the New York Daily News quoted officials saying on Tuesday.

Responding to an article about Sarsour calling Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two “bigoted peas in a hateful pod,”  Glenn Maccioli wrote on Facebook, “This b—h is in Brooklyn. Anyone know where [in Brooklyn]? I would like to spit in her face.” He added, “If I get the address I will tell you all where and when…That’s my word.”

The fundraising campaign by Sarsour and el-Messidi comes amid a spike in anti-Semitic threats and attacks in the United States. Since January, Jewish Community Centers have recorded nearly 69 bomb threats at locations in 27 states and in one Canadian province. The desecration of the St. Louis cemetery was discovered following a weekend of 11 JCC bomb threats.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka, a convert to Orthodox Judaism, responded to the disturbing trend before her father.

Trump has avoided speaking about anti-Semitism.  When asked by an Israeli journalist last week about the rise in attacks and their connection to his presidency, he responded by saying that he has “so many” Jewish friends—”a daughter who happens to be here right now; a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren.” At a press conference on Thursday, an Orthodox Jewish journalist asked Trump about “an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.” Trump ordered him to sit down, saying that it was “not a fair question.”

Trump finally addressed the issue in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday after touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture, saying that “the anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect described Trump’s delayed response was as “a pathetic asterisk of condescension”.