(JTA) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered a police investigation into the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Rochester.
“Given the wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centres and disturbing vandalism at Jewish cemeteries nationwide, I am directing the State Police to immediately launch a full investigation into this matter,” Cuomo said Thursday in a statement. “New York has zero tolerance for bias or discrimination of any kind, and we will always stand united in the face of anti-Semitism and divisiveness.”
Five headstones were found toppled Thursday morning at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in Rochester, the third such incident in the United States in less than two weeks.
The president of the nonprofit managing the cemetery in the city in western New York 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.
The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into Jewish community centres, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year.
On Wednesday, 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 per cent increase overall in the number of hate crimes in the city as compared to the same time last year.
“Hate crimes are up in this city. They’re driven primarily by anti-Semitic hate crimes,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a news conference Wednesday, according to reports.