Muslims Raised $90,000 (And Counting) To Repair A Jewish Cemetery Damaged By Vandals

"When you put all the politics aside, the shared humanity we have is beautiful."

Dozens of headstones at a historic St. Louis Jewish cemetery were damaged by vandals over the weekend in an incident that has caused anguish in the community, and exacerbated fears of rising anti-Semitism in the country. As officials investigate what could potentially be another hate crime against the American Jewish community, two prominent Muslim activists have managed to raise (at the time of writing) some $90,000 to help restore the vandalized cemetery. 

Hours after hearing news of the desecrated cemetery, Linda Sarsour, who led the Women's March on Washington last month, and Tarek El-Messidi, a community organizer and Muslim American speaker, launched a crowdfunding campaign on behalf of the Muslim American community to help repair more than 100 damaged Jewish gravestones.



Speaking to A Plus in an interview, El-Messidi said two things came to mind when he first heard of the Jewish cemetery being targeted: how heartbroken he would have felt if it had been his family's gravestones that were vandalized, and a story about Prophet Muhammad standing up to pay his respects as a Jewish funeral passed by. 

"That story really inspired me to get started on this campaign," El-Messidi said. Not three hours after the fundraising website went live, donations exceeded its $20,000 goal. That amount doubled after J.K. Rowling posted about it on Twitter, which also crashed the site for about an hour. 

At the rate that people have been contributing, they've seen an average of $1,000 being donated every 20 minutes. 

The donations themselves speak to the overwhelmingly positive response to the crowdfunding campaign, and El-Messidi said that they've received a deluge of "thank you" emails from people — especially Jewish Americans, and even those whose relatives were laid to rest in that very cemetery. 

One of the notes he shared with A Plus read, "I knew we Jews needed to stand with Muslims. I never thought we'd need you to stand with us. Bless you all. We'll stand together to get through the darkness."

Muslims and Jews in America have seen a spike in hate crimes targeted at their communities in the past few months. (President Trump dragged his feet on condemning anti-Semitism, and only did so after intense criticism from Jewish organizations. He has yet to issue any condemnation of Islamophobic attacks.) 

Despite their complicated history and current political climate, in recent months, the two communities have stepped in to help each other in times of need. In January, after a Texas mosque was burned down, the local Jewish congregation offered their Muslim neighbors the keys to their synagogue so they had a place to worship. 

"These are two communities that typically didn't work closely together in the past," El-Messidi said. The fight against hatred toward their communities, he continued, has brought Jews and Muslims closer together.

"This is a clear display that love trumps hate. Despite all of the hateful rhetoric out there during the presidential campaign and after the election, when you put all the politics aside, the shared humanity we have is beautiful," he added. "We started this campaign because we are human beings first, before even being Muslims — we just felt that every human being has a right to rest in peace, and to know that their loved ones can rest in peace after they pass away."

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