Hundreds turned out for a “Stand Against Hate” rally in Philadelphia in response to the recent vandalism of a Jewish cemetery and hate crimes around the country.
A Jewish federation said it organized Thursday’s interfaith rally to “restore a sense of security and peace to our community.”
At the rally, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called the cemetery vandalism “the desecration of the values we all hold dear” and the bomb scares “threats against each and every one of us and our common humanity.”
Naomi Adler, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said she was “incredibly heartened by the outpouring of so many generations of people who are taking their time to come out in the cold to stand against hate,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Over 100 headstones were recently discovered damaged at Mount Carmel Cemetery. Police haven’t made an arrest or determined a motive. Jewish community centers and schools in at least a dozen states were also targets of bomb threats this past week, the fifth wave since January.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the gathered crowds he had spoken to President Donald Trump and told him recent acts of vandalism, as well as bomb threats against Jewish community centers, needed to be treated as hate crimes.
“These terroristic threats were designed to divide us, but what I have seen is that it has united us in a meaningful and purposeful way,” he said, according to ABC News.
— Kohelet Yeshiva HS (@KoheletYeshiva) March 2, 2017
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday ordered state police to launch a full investigation after a Jewish cemetery in Rochester was vandalized, the third such incident in the United States in less than two weeks.
Five headstones were found toppled Thursday morning at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in the city in western New York.
“A number of headstones were recently vandalized and toppled over at Waad Hakolel Cemetery in Rochester,” the governor said in a statement. “Given the wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and disturbing vandalism at Jewish cemeteries nationwide, I am directing the State Police to immediately launch a full investigation into this matter.”
The president of the nonprofit managing the cemetery said he did not want to call the incident a hate crime or anti-Semitism.
“I don’t want to label it a hate crime. I don’t think there’s any proof of that. I don’t want to label it anti-Semitism. I don’t think there’s any proof of that,” said Michael Phillips, president of the Britton Road Association, according to The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
However, Cuomo said the attack appeared to be a part of a dramatic increase in hate crimes in the state recently.
“In recent weeks and months, the family of New York – people of all creeds, colors and backgrounds – have witnessed a dramatic increase in acts of hate and intolerance. The State Police Hate Crimes Task Force, in partnership with federal and local authorities, have launched aggressive investigations into reported hate crimes across the state,” Cuomo said.
The incident came a day after the New York Police Department said anti-Semitic incidents are up 94 percent in New York City over this time last year.
The figure is part of a 55% increase overall in the number of hate crimes in the city as compared to the same time last year. Through the first two months of this year, 35 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported, compared to 18 through February 2016.