A fundraiser led by American Muslims has raised more than $80,000 to help repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery ― more than four times the initial goal.
After hearing on Monday that nearly 200 graves were found damaged at Missouri’s Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi created an online LaunchGood fundraiser, calling on Muslims to show solidarity with Jews who have been disturbed by this desecration of sacred space.
The campaign reached its goal of $20,000 within three hours of launching on Tuesday. By Wednesday, the page had soared past $80,000. The fundraiser will remain open until March 21. The funds collected will first go toward restoring the 124-year-old Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, and any additional funds raised will “assist other vandalized Jewish centers nationwide,” according to the LaunchGood page.
“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the organizers wrote on their fundraising page. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”
On Facebook, El-Messidi said he’d been getting hundreds of thank-you notes from American Jews for helping to spearhead this initiative.
In 2015, Muslim activists raised over $100,000 to rebuild black churches in the South that were damaged in a string of fires and last year raised over $100,000 to help families of the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Since the November election, Muslim and Jewish communities have reported concerning incidents of vandalism, harassment and hate crimes. On the same day that officials discovered the toppled gravestones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, several Jewish community centers across the country received phoned-in bomb threats. It was the fourth wave of threats to affect Jewish community centers this year.
President Donald Trump, who had been facing criticism from Jewish groups for remaining silent about the bomb threats to Jewish centers, finally addressed the spike in anti-Semitism on Tuesday.
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and Jewish community centers are horrible and painful and a very sad reminder of the work that must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said during a visit to National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, Vice President Michael Pence made an unannounced visit to Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery and condemned the vandalism.
“There is no place in America for hatred, prejudice, or acts of violence, or anti-Semitism,” Pence said, according to Fox2Now St. Louis.
Even as both Muslims and Jews report being targeted for their faith, collaboration between Muslim and Jewish organizations in America has strengthened. A group of over 30 religious leaders, business executives and scholars joined together last November to form a new Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council that plans to “develop a coordinated strategy to address anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism in the U.S.”
Jewish activists have also been prominent in the fight against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, which critics claim targets Muslim refugees and immigrants. In a rare show of unity, all four major American Jewish denominations issued statements critical of the president’s ban.
El-Messidi told The Washington Post that the solidarity between American Muslims and Jews is a silver lining to the latest election cycle.
“Out of this horrible election cycle, something beautiful has come out of it and [Muslims and Jews have] bonded together to support each other and stand up to this hate,” El-Messidi said. “Politics can get in the way of our basic humanity; I hope this breaks through all those walls, no pun intended, to help bring us closer together.”
This article has been updated to include information about Vice President Michael Pence’s visit to the cemetery.