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Jewish cemetery hit by vandalism announces massive restoration

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In February, Mount Carmel Cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia was hit by a hate crime. Nearly 300 headstones in the Jewish burial ground were knocked over, part of a wave of anti-Semitic violence which spared few corners of the United States in the last year and which struck this city with particular venom and focus; only one day after the Mt. Carmel attack was reported, two Philadelphia-area Jewish Community Centers received bomb threats.

Eight months later, the Mt. Carmel repairs are complete. Tuesday morning, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will give a “symbolic first tour” of the cemetery to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

The perpetrators of the vandalism are still unknown. But an investigation found that, sometime between February 16 and 21, the assailants “entered the site through a hole in a chain link fence located on the northeast side of the property, forging an intentional path of destruction,” according to a statement from the Jewish Federation, which spearheaded the restoration efforts and received donations from almost 3,000 people, totaling more than $288,000. In addition to repairing the 275 headstones damaged in the attack, the Jewish Federation has repaired 225 other stones that “were leaning or fallen over due to natural causes.”

To give a sense of the destruction and the effort involved in dismantling hundreds of headstones from their bases: The average monument in the graveyard weighed 1,600 pounds, according to the Jewish Federation.

“Our loved ones are entitled to a peaceful resting place,” Jewish Federation President and CEO Naomi Adler said in a press release. “We hope that the work of our collective Philadelphia community to repair the damaged gravestones will discourage these kinds of incidents in the future. While we may never be able to rid the world of anti-Semitism and hate, we sincerely believe that our work here at Mt. Carmel will help ‘carry the light’ for communities across the world who are struggling with similar adversities.”

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