(JTA) – Two Philadelphia unions said they will provide free services to help repair and secure the city’s vandalized Mount Carmel Cemetery.
More than 100 gravestones were toppled and damaged at the Jewish cemetery in the Wissinoming section. The vandalism was discovered Sunday.
Bobby Henon, a Philadelphia City Council member with union ties who represents the Wissinoming neighbourhood, tweeted Monday evening that the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council offered to replace the toppled headstones and that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 98 offered to install additional lighting and security cameras.
Labour leader John Dougherty of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council told reporters that the vandalism is a “cowardly act of anti-Semitism that cannot be tolerated.” His workers also offered to re-sod and clean the cemetery grounds.
Meanwhile, a Gofundme campaign for the Philadelphia cemetery launched by a private citizen, Raphael Caroline, 31, in the hours after the vandalism was discovered has raised nearly $20,000 in 24 hours, double its original goal.
The Jewish Federation of Philadelphia announced that a volunteer cleanup of the cemetery began at noon Tuesday and will run every day from noon to 4 p.m. The federation asked for volunteers.
“Representatives from the Jewish Federation will be on hand as well as up to 50 people per hour cleaning and working to help restore this important Philadelphia landmark,” the federation said in a statement.
In response to the vandalism, the National Museum of American Jewish History, which is located in Philadelphia, has initiated a project to preserve the stories of the people who are buried there. The museum has called on those who have relatives or friends buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery to share a photo of the person, and one of the headstone, if possible, and a personal story of up to 150 words. They can be posted at http://MtCarmelStories.tumblr.com or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project is also open to those whose families were affected by the desecration that occurred last week at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in the St. Louis area.
“We would like those who did this to understand that these are not victimless crimes,” said Ivy Barsky, the museum’s CEO, and Gwen Goodman, its director. “The individuals buried at Mt. Carmel were human beings with names, stories, and families. They contributed to the world while they were here and continue to do so through the loved ones they left behind. We honor their memories.”