Jewish cemetery in Michigan vandalized with ‘Trump,’ ‘MAGA’ before Trump’s rally – USA TODAY

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N’dea Yancey-Bragg
 
| USA TODAY

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Hours before President Donald Trump arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan for his final campaign rally, police received a report that several tombstones in a Jewish cemetery there were spray-painted with messages in support of the president.

The Anti-Defamation League of Michigan shared photos Monday of tombstones in the Ahavas Israel Cemetery that had been desecrated with “Trump” and “MAGA” in red spray paint.

“We are in close touch with the Jewish community and Law Enforcement to investigate this vandalism,” the civil rights organization said on Twitter.

The incident was reported around 11 a.m. on Monday, but the vandalism may have occurred three to five days before it was discovered, according to Sgt. John Wittkowski of the Grand Rapids Police Department. 

Wittkowski said police have no leads because the Ahavas Israel Cemetery is located in a relatively isolated area next to cemeteries of multiple denominations with no cameras.

“We’re still investigating this,” Wittkowski said. “We’re just crossing our fingers at this point.

When asked if he believes the attack was anti-Semitic, he said it’s unclear.

Carolyn Normandin, the ADL’s Michigan regional director, told The Washington Post at least six tombstones were defaced with the graffiti in the “disgusting and vile” incident.

Both Normandin and David J.B. Krishef, the rabbi at Ahavas Israel, also said it’s unclear if the desecration was specifically an attack on the Jewish community.

“There were no other words or symbols painted that would clearly indicate that it was an antisemitic attack,” Krishef said in a statement to USA TODAY. “It may just have been opportunistic vandalism against a cemetery which is isolated and hard to see from the road, on Halloween weekend, not an attack against the Jewish community. We don’t know.”

In Michigan and across the country, reports of anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise. More than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment against the Jewish community were reported in 2019, the highest level since the ADL began tracking that data in 1979. In Michigan, anti-Semitic incidents doubled from 2018 to 2019.

The Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus said the incident will not deter them from going to the polls on Election Day.

“Make no mistake, this heinous act was committed on the eve of the 2020 election to send an intimidating message to the president’s opponents, and particularly, Jewish voters,” the group said in a statement. “Grand Rapids’ Jewish community will not be cowed by this vile attack on Ahavas Israel.”

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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