A Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was the target of alleged anti-Semitic vandalism over the weekend when hundreds of headstones were defaced, overturned or broken.
According to WPVI-TV, the damage at Mt. Carmel Cemetery was discovered early Sunday morning where police say more than 100 headstones were vandalized. However, authorities warned that the estimate may be conservative. Those who were cleaning the cemetery Sunday said closer to 500 headstones were overturned or damaged.
Detective Jim McReynolds of the Philadelphia Police Department told CNN that a motive had not yet been officially established but noted that a Christian cemetery across the street was not damaged.
"As far as we know it's limited to the Jewish cemetery," McReynolds told CNN.
Police said the vandalism was discovered Sunday morning. Aaron Mallin, who was visiting the burial sites of relatives at the cemetery, called police to inform them of the overturned headstones. Authorities believe the crime happened sometime overnight Saturday.
"It's just very disheartening that such a thing would take place," Mallin told WPVI. "I'm hoping it was maybe just some drunk kids. But the fact that there's so many, it leads one to think it could have been targeted."
While investigators haven't established a motive, a local Philadelphia rabbi told WPVI that the community has already come together to help clean up the cemetery.
"This is people from Quaker, Muslim, Jewish communities. Some Rabbis, my colleagues, we just heard about this thanks to your reporting, and came out here out of the desire to be in solidarity to show that we're not interested in any narrative about victimization and, as heartbreaking as this is, we are strong together," he told the news station.
"I don't know much about — either through the police or the official Jewish community — details," the unnamed rabbi added. "I just know that there are things in formation now and there will be communal response. People have already started to ask, 'Are there some places to contribute or how to organize?' That'll unfold I'm sure through the city Jewish Federation in the next 24 hours."
Nancy Baron-Baer, the Anti-Defamation League's regional director for the Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware region, told CNN that the ADL is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the vandalism.
In addition, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 said they are offering a $3,000 reward.
The attack quickly earned outrage from key Pennsylvania politicians.
"My heart breaks for the families who found their loved ones’ headstones toppled this morning. We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators who desecrated this final resting place, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) said in a statement. "Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia."
My heart breaks for the families who found loved ones’ headstones toppled. We stand w/our Jewish brothers & sisters https://t.co/tBq9Mtxtqr— Jim Kenney (@Jim Kenney)1488151334.0
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) labeled the vandalism a "cowardly" and "disturbing" act.
The vandalism of Jewish headstones at a Phila. cemetery is a cowardly, disturbing act. We must find those responsib… https://t.co/GFCgMW4sBI— Governor Tom Wolf (@Governor Tom Wolf)1488146287.0
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D) called the vandalism "despicable."
This is a despicable act of vandalism- these acts of hate cannot be tolerated. https://t.co/4xiLJRzi5e via @6abc— Senator Bob Casey (@Senator Bob Casey)1488137423.0
The vandalism comes just one week after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was the site of an anti-Semitic attack. More than 100 headstones were also overturned at that cemetery. That attack garnered the attention of the White House and even saw Vice President Mike Pence quietly join the clean up efforts.